As I noted yesterday, I’m not feeling particularly clever these days. Or as Americans would say, feeling particularly smart.
This was a source of great discomfort at first. Particularly since I’m here in the States now, where everything is so smart. You have smart phones. You have smart washing machines. You have smart apps for grocery lists. You might even see a smart car parallel park itself far outsmarting you very soon.
All this smartness makes a person feel rather dumb. But feeling dumb was not helping as I was trying to write. I was still the writer-frog staring at the big green leaf-blank page in expectation of the fly-words to come by when a thought struck me.
When everyone else is smart, perhaps the smart thing to aspire to is dumbness.
Perhaps dumb is the new smart.
Why not explore dumbness as a very important state of being in the world? Or rather, why not explore the idea that there is merit in dumbness?
Thank god. That’s when I came up with something clever to say at last.
I aspire to dumbness. There! I said it!
If you’ve ever been interested in fiction, you know that dumbness by itself can be an interesting character trait, not just in humorous pieces but in many other genres as well.
Those of us who have varying shades of dumbness in us mixed with some smarts are happy with mediocrity. But what I’m saying is that we are actually rather fortunate to be dumb. That’s because we are ahead of those with the smarts rather than the other way around. [Yes, I can see your sceptical smirks SmartMan!]
Mediocrity, more than any other character trait, is the meat and potatoes of society. Or the dal and rice. Depending on where you are from.
Why go looking for the rare champagne when the meat and potatoes are everywhere to be studied? Or more importantly, if those grains of dal and rice are found within ourselves that can be boiled very effectively to make a staple diet for the dumb mind?
I mean, as a writer, it’s so much more important to be dumb, or in the least, be mediocre. And you have to have elements of dumbness in you to be mediocre for sure. When 90% of the people around the writer are mediocre, the writer needs to cultivate, nay celebrate dumbness within himself to resonate, to connect, to partake in the joy around him. To inspire. To motivate. To sell.
How can you connect with most people if you are not dumb yourself?
Hence, I think every school in every country should aim to produce a mediocre writer, with a well cultivated dumb side. An easily satiated mind immersed in happy dumbness.
Say you disagree with me. You plan to be, or create, the smart messiah who will lead. You deal with extraordinary characters who stand out, who push through the system, who play the system, who succeed, who stand victorious or tragic in the end. Who deal with characters who are the opposite of dumb. A Hamlet or a Harry Potter.
You are certain that your hero is not Everyman. At least not Mr. Dumb Everyman.
But here I contend that you are wrong. Call your non-hero-Everyman. Make him or her sit with you and discuss life over a cup of tea. Put your best foot forward. Connect word for word, non-smarts for non-smarts, dumb for dumb and you will reach an epiphany of true dumbness.
Your clever hero is, nay, has to be a huge part dumb. In a hero, what you’re dealing with really is the Everyman with traits of mediocrity that connect with the rest of us. These dumb traits are the anchors on which the extraordinary traits are moored. Otherwise, your character is going to slip away soon into never-read-land.
Our dumb hero takes some dumb risks like we dumb readers would have but comes out victorious. Or our dumb hero has some pretty dumb friends who show him off in a good light. Stop. Think. Would our hero not have to be somewhat dumb to enjoy hanging out with so many dumb friends in the first place? Without the foil, there would be no hero, but the hero must also be his own foil. The foil must be within himself.
Our underdog heroes have to have a dumb society to push against and move upwards as gifted individuals and we writers have to tap into the wellspring of true dumbness within ourselves to effectively paint society dumb. All the while, our individual hero can’t seem too clever to resonate with the dumb side in our audience. The category of dumbness is a necessary attribute in the writer and the audience for our semi-dumb heroes to come to life.
In another scenario, you can write a modern television reality show where all the characters are dumb in a utopia of dumbness where all spectacles are epic shows of outrageousness that are just a teeny weeny bit more dumb than us the audience (which makes the audience feel smart).
Don’t make me name these shows. I’ve already revealed the wellspring of my dumbness as my own inner self. I don’t need to reveal outside influence.
A third option could be that you simply be avant garde, not appeal to mass dumbness and create an Everyman hero–powerless and a victim of the system. Just frankly, honestly and somewhat sadly an epitome of dumbness.
It is my contention that if you don’t understand dumbness, and mediocrity, you can be no writer. Actually, you can’t be much of anything else either without a true and deep understanding of the category of dumbness in humanity.
My belief is that if you want to be anything at all–not just a political leader in a parliamentary democracy–who, BTW, has to understand, be, act, and appeal to dumbness periodically (by the true nature of self-government because the self, as we found out, is a big part dumb)–but an actor, a manager, a teacher, a marketing executive, you name it, you need to explore this category of dumbness.
So my vote today is for dumbness. Celebrate the dumbness in yourself. Be in touch with the true dumb in you. Cultivate it. Nurture it. It will bring rewards.