#20. Looks vs Books
Here’s the situation: you are given a choice between two rewards.
The first reward is to be twice as intelligent as you are right now–you will be able to read twice as fast and remember twice as much, the size of your vocabulary will double, and you’ll be able to solve intellectual problems with twice your current aptitude.
The second reward is that you will never again feel sick (even when you are) and you can always be whatever weight you want, regardless of what you eat or how little you exercise–you can simply imagine the body you would like to have and that is the weight you will magically become.
Which reward do you choose?
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This is one of my favorite questions of the bunch. That’s probably because it’s one of the hardest to answer. I’d definitely be happy to reap either one of these rewards, and as such I can’t bring myself to settle on just one.
That’s because I’m fucking greedy and I want it all. But I must. There is no room here for indecisiveness or neutral positions or cheesy cop outs. So I think I’ll work out the pros and cons of each reward right here and surprise myself when I finally come to a decision.
Of course, reward #1 appeals to me because I like to learn and I often look for opportunities to become smarter and a much more learned person. I think I’m plenty intelligent, and my aptitude for learning is strong and unique. But like most people, I am in no position whatsoever to be satisfied with what I know nor to be content with my capacity for understanding. But I don’t think any real smart person is. The number of things I do not know and understand will always exceed those things which I do. And that’s fine. That doesn’t discourage me from continuing to pursue knowledge and making efforts to increase the amount of information I know in all aspects of life, from my work to my educational to my leisure activities. Far from it. I’m a voracious reader with an insatiable appetite for knowing stuff. Plain and simple. My curiosity is wild and rampant and I am (in)famous for assaulting people with my ideas. Therefore becoming twice as intelligent is befitting of someone like me whose love for knowledge is boundless. It would be fucking awesome. It excites me to think that I could not only get through reading Infinte Jest or The Brothers Karamazov or Being and Nothingness with much more ease, but that I would also remember twice as much about these books as I do now. (I am also notorious for having the worst memory in all of civilization. I can’t remember shit. I don’t have an inherent gift for being finicky and detail oriented. And while I may demonstrate an adroitness for writing meticulous and fiercely analytical papers, it is not without a heavy price. I once wrote a paper on the use of punctuation in a well known modernist poem and I nearly died in the process.) The Laplacian Matrix. Occam’s Razor. Boolean algebra. Dual-aspect Theory. I definitely wouldn’t mind be able to solve these intellectual problems. In fact, I would’ve loved to have this offer made to me in college. Woulda made junior year a lot less painful. And I woulda gotten more sleep!
Um, and who wouldn’t benefit from seeing their vocabulary double? Inimical. Soporific. Transmogrify. Schadenfreude. Defenestrate. Antediluvian. Fungible. Zeitgeist. Oh, and the list goes on and on and on! How exciting! To think of strengthening our lexicon to double its capacity, to see a rise in the variation of our daily jargon, to be able to parse language from the vernacular to the debonair. Kinda makes me feel like volunteering to take the fucking SATs again! Well, almost. Imagine the potential for high quality discussions and conversations in the future. It sure would make people and the world a far more lively place. (Though that’s not to say that an exceptional vocabulary is a guarantee for great thoughts. Not at all. It’s all about how we use our words which provide the quality of our ideas.)
But basically, there is much to be gained in choosing the first reward.
This DOES NOT make the second reward any less appealing, however. Because let’s be honest, who wouldn’t want the ability to have the “perfect body” or the body they’ve always dreamed of–espcially without having to work for it? Um, unless you’re a corpse that’s everyone. Me. You. And probably everybody you know. Whether they can admit it or not. I mean, can you imagine just thinking of the body you’d like to have and the exact weight you’d like to be and then having it right then and there? And can you imagine being like this for the rest of your life? I can. And it’s fucking easy to do. Oh, man. I can eat baked fucking ziti for breakfast if I want–as much as I want, whenever I want–and I won’t have to pay for it later. I can drink all the fucking beer and soda I want and it would have the same effect on me as water. I’m eating the most delectable ice-cream I’ve ever tasted since I’ve been allowed to eat ice-cream right now as I type this post and I would love to be able to know that instead of making its way to my fucking chin or thighs and getting stored as excess fat, this delightful chocolate cookie chunk ice cream will magically become the fucking washboard abs I’ve seen on airbrushed posters and ads on TV. I’d blame the toned arms and legs on my body on my fried chicken and mac & cheese diet. I’d eat Pinkberry once a day to get my daily calcium intake instead of whatever it is you’re really supposed to eat to get your daily intake of calcium. And with my luck, that’s probably some kinda vegetable. My boobs would be bigger! My ass would be smaller! I’d weigh less! Steak and mashed potatoes would be brain food! Oh! Once again, the possibilities are endless!
Um. But blatantly superficial longings aside, what makes this offer most tempting for me is the chance to better cope with my health. I’ve had several issues with my health in recent years. This year, and earlier this summer I required surgery as a result. I have to be very vigilant about what I eat, drink, make sure I take care of myself and look out for my personal health more than I’ve had to in the past. I even stopped smoking. It’s not necessary to say I “quit” because I was never addicted. Anyway, it’s been like this for a couple of years now and I have learned many great lessons in taking your health seriously. Some of them the hard way.
Quite simply, I’ve been in a great deal of pain. And if I had the opportunity not to go through that again or at the very least not to feel the excruciating details of my symptoms and conditions I’d take it. If I could go without feeling the adverse affects of medications, or the discomfort of a medical procedure, the aches and pains of being sick, and never, ever feel a toothache or an ear infection or worse again–even when I have a toothache or worse–that would be swell. So what to do?
In all my life, or as long as people have known me, I’ve been most complimented for my mind than my looks. By far. It is what it is. And I’m not complaining. “Cute,” and “gorgeous,” aren’t the first words you think of when I come to mind. And that’s how I like it. I wouldn’t want you to describe me or think of me in that way. That may or may not be something you’d say about me, but if it is, that’s certainly not my defining characteristic. That’s not the best I have to offer. If all you can say about me is that I’m so “cute” or “gorgeous” I’d be severely embarrassed and disappointed. Not in you. In me. People almost always remember something I said, a thought I shared, an idea I expressed, even a paper I wrote when they share a recollection about me. When they share something they like about me it’s often about who I am as a person and NOT what I look like as a person. Nobody asks me for my beauty tips. Or where I buy my clothes. They ask me what kinda books I read, what I think about the political state, and best of all, they ask to pick my brain on a plethora of topics.
I’m proud about this. And I’d like to keep it that way. So I’m gonna choose the first reward and walk deeper down the path I’ve already laid out for myself. I won’t say you can’t be remembered for both books and looks, but the reality is, you will most likely be appreciated for only one.
But something tells me you already knew that.