Archive for July 24th, 2009

This is not a parable

I was thinking about economics. I shared a house for six months or so with a chap studying economics who was well known for having a ferocious intellect, at least in terms measured by other economists. His four brains now have a very prominent position in a very important financial institution.

I was struggling to write a history essay on Bretton Woods, and finding him in the kitchen I figured I’d pick one of his brains as I made myself a cup of tea.

“Can I ask you a question?”

I can’t remember what I asked him, he looked me up and down, hmmed and ha’d for a minute, then hit me with some analysis that made my ears glaze over. If I am honest, I didn’t really care what he was going to tell me: I just wanted to hear what someone who knew what he was talking about might sound like. Food for thought, I said, and thanked him.

“Now can I ask you a question?”

“Sure”

“What are you doing?”

“An essay on Bretton Woods for a history paper”

“No, I mean, what are you doing here?”

For a moment I thought that perhaps my poorly phrased question had revealed too much ignorance for him to stand my presence. Or, maybe he’d deliberately provided me with a completely nonsensical answer and my uncritical response had done the trick.

“Sorry?”

“What are you doing in my kitchen?”

“I live here.”

“Well, I’ve never seen you before.”

“I’ve lived here for months.”

“Really? I had no idea.”

A relentless focus on matters economic seemed to have narrowed his peripheral vision. Dude thought I’d broken into his kitchen to ask him an economics question.

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