Avoid Boring People

James Watson gives a few useful tips. The first tip is, avoid boring people. Brightest are often the biggest bores, because they expect only adoration from one and all. Watson, however, advises, “An intelligent team mate can shorten your flirtation with a bad idea.” His other suggestion is to make a team of only two people; a scientific team of more than two is a crowded affair. Young and not-so-famous colleagues are preferable in the team. These persons help you keep your brain moving. Most important advice is to avoid a gathering of more than two Nobel Prize winners.

Watson’s ‘double helix’ partner Francis Crick has narrated an interesting anecdote in his autobiography. When Crick realised that “we had stumbled onto something important,” he went home and told his wife, “We seemed to have made a big discovery.” His wife recalls years later, that she hadn’t believed a word of it. Whatever you might have become, remember that, scientist or no-scientist, in the eyes of your spouse, you are nothing more than, as Carl Sagan would say, “a pale blue dot”.

Bertrand Russell suggested a novel way to achieve happiness. There was a phase in Russell’s life when he was continually on the verge of suicide. He began to hate life. One day, he discovered the meaning of “diminishing preoccupation with myself.” From that day onwards he began to deliberate less on his “sins, follies, and shortcomings.” He gradually learnt to be indifferent towards himself and his deficiencies. He directed his attention more towards the external world. Russell writes, “External interests, it is true, bring its own possibility of pain: the world may be plunged in war, knowledge in some direction may be hard to achieve, and friends may die. But pains of these kinds do not destroy the essential quality of life, as do those that spring from disgust with the self.”

In the early tribal cultures a ritual was performed in which all the sins of the tribe were symbolically transferred to a goat. The goat was then driven off into the wilderness. It was a way to expel the sins by transferring them to the goat. This practice is continuing and is called scapegoatism. Scapegoatism is the easiest of all hunting expeditions. When you see an accused smiling, you know he has identified a scapegoat to stomach his blame. Take this situation: You are not happy the way your boss treats you. You can’t kick your Boss, but you certainly can kick your faithful dog (he could be a human) when you reach home. The unfortunate dog did not deserve the kick, vainly barks for some time, but being faithful, and comes back to you to get another kick. Scapegoats are like punching bags. They are good at absorbing the emotional outbursts of others. Every family has a scapegoat. The family scapegoats accept blame in the larger interest of the family. They happily become donkeys. We often choose the weak as a scapegoat. We don’t give them enough recognition in maintaining the stability of the family. Among the scapegoats, Mark Twain said, the most popular is providence.

The art of loving is a difficult art. ‘Falling in love’ is easy, difficult is ‘standing in love’. One is a temporary state of being; the other is a permanent state of being.