Bin Men and The New Scientist

Are they reading the paper? One of them is reading something. A couple of voices add something in, that even memory cannot furnish for me. But the cover I recognise. It’s something my stepdad has showed me many times, lending me copies since I was 13. I hear their points about gravity and black holes. What physics conversation, or even one tangentially related to the subject not mention it? Five bin men, just past the smell of the van parked across the road, one of the four reading to a half circle of the others.

I never forgot that moment, and I try to pass it on a lot because it stuck with me as something I was meant to learn. Anti-elitism. There’s a lot of jokes about the Dunning–Kruger effect, but it’s true. At least, it applies to me often, thinking or reminding myself that I am not the smartest mind in the room. Centring yourself is useful for success, especially if you’re of an emotional temperament. I can’t speak for you obviously, but I wonder if you find it the same way.

I don’t think you can view intelligence, humility, and empathy in the same way when you are aware of the intelligence others have, in the same way having a fogged window wiped or a stern look in the mirror. There is nothing but good, a sweet or a bitter medicine admitting and intentionally remembering that yes, there are many individuals working harder than you are, smarter than you are. That societal assumption is not only mistaken, mean-spirited; it also denies you respect and self-progression.

I have never forgotten those awkward steps down one of many depressions in a Ramsgate street, the ache in my leg and the discomfort of a sixth-form uniform. That after glancing, sizing up and realising the dimensions of the magazine didn’t fit a paper, that these people worked harder and thought on a deeper level than anyone else I met in town would that day.

Never forget, the people you meet have minds you cannot see. That’s a wonder. It may be a terror at times, for people who frighten us. For people we wish to know, or realise that we don’t. But I suppose in turn, we are the same. Only actions really speak for us, and perhaps at times our words. Although I doubt that more and more now, knowing how complicated and elusive those things can be.

Always look for knowledge. Because people around you are saturated in it, and welcoming to it, and life is a classroom with a down to earth grandeur most like me took far too long to appreciate.

All the best,
J.W.H Hobbs.

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