The Question - 3

Submitted by Ken Watts on Wed, 09/05/2007 - 13:45

"What is the average human nature?"

"Why do you ask?"

"Human nature is a set of variables, right?"

"That was your conclusion."

"So, if I can't pin it down to a constant, or a set of constants, an average is the best way to..."

"What is the nature of crayons?"

"Crayons? Well, they're hand-sized, they leave a mark, they're brightly colored..."

"Crayon nature includes a variable for 'color'?"


"What is the average color of a crayon?"

"A crayon? I supposed some kind of gray, or..."

"And what insight does that give you into the nature of crayons—or the nature of the color of crayons?"

"Very little."

"Why not?"

"Because the average isn't the point. It's the variety that's the point. The different colors they can contribute to a drawing, or a..."

"Is the average honey bee a queen, or a worker?"

"Neither, really. I suppose it would be nearer a worker, since there are more of them."

"And how long would a hive of average bees survive?"

"Not long. I don't think you could even call them bees to begin with."

"Excellent. Is the average human a writer, or a hunter, or a farmer, a man or a woman or a child, young or old or..."

"None of course."

"It does no good to know the average age?"

"Not as far as human nature is concerned, and it's meaningless to ask what the average gender is..."

"And what about the average attention span?"

"Maybe that is helpful."


"Because attention is a good thing, at any level, for anybody, in any situation."

"What is attention?'

"It's the ability to stay focused on something. To not be distracted. Like concentrating on a geometry problem."

"And this is always good?"

"You can't be too good at concentrating."

"So, if you were so good at concentrating that you forgot to eat, for example..."

"I take it back..."

"Or you didn't notice a bus bearing down on you..."

"Right. So I guess the optimum would be somewhere in the middle."

"And everyone should share this 'optimum'?"

"No. I mean, suppose you're a group of hunters, out stalking a deer. It might be good to have some hunters who were completely focused on the deer, so that you don't lose it. But they might not notice a tiger stalking them. So it might be good to also have some hunters who would be easily distracted by the tiger."

"So what does this tell you about human nature?"

"There's individual human nature—the nature of an individual human being, which differs from those around him or her, and there's the larger nature of humans as a group or species, which includes the variety of all those individuals, but can't be summarized so easily."

"And does this answer your question?"


"I am delighted."