I do not know who the World’s Smartest Person is, but I do not believe we’ll be able to find them where we assume them to be.
They probably aren’t holding some prestigious post at some prestigious university, publishing their findings in prestigious periodicals few will read.
They probably aren’t pioneering the latest gizmos and gadgets, conceiving of new, innovative ways to monetize your information through the veil of technological convenience.
They probably never wrote an eight-voice fugue at the age of four, nor could they play on the piano, blindfolded and upside down, a concerto they once heard last year.
They’re probably none too concerned with the prospect of space travel, of wrapping humans in magnetic tubes and shooting them across continents to save a movie’s worth of commute time. They might not even be sitting at a fancy desk, wearing a suit, manipulating the economy with their fingertips, buying and selling elections, businesses, people, pasts, futures, or whatever else the enormously powerful seem to be able to control.
They probably don’t have a set of quirky habits and eccentric routines emulated by thousands or millions of fanboys and fangirls who blog about how putting on the left shoe before the right is obviously the key to unleash one’s inner genius, particularly when combined with exactly three eggs for breakfast at 6:24am.
No, the Smartest Person in the World probably doesn’t go chasing accolades.
They probably don’t write enumerated articles on the twenty-five habits of highly successful people, let alone read them.
They might not even know how to play chess.
When we meet the Smartest Person in the World, we probably won’t realize it. They will be dressed as we don’t expect them to dress and speak as we don’t expect them to speak. They might not have fancy tools, nor a particularly extensive library filled with large books and even larger words.
Their neighbors might even call them a fool, because they will not understand them. But surely, none of us will understand them. They are the World’s Smartest Person. How can we truly understand they who can comprehend what we cannot?
Is it that accolades, fortunes, and innovations are creations of mankind? Of course the World’s Smartest Person is none too concerned with mankind’s frivolous pursuits (for of course we are but a fleeting blip on the timeline of the universe!). Or is the World’s Smartest Person also unconcerned with the timeline of the universe (it is but a meaningless abstraction for what otherwise concerns mankind here and now!)?
Perhaps the Smartest Person in the World more concerned with the expansiveness of one’s internal universe rather than the external.
Or perhaps neither? Maybe they would rather not humor such foolish questions.
Do they use their great genius to seek inner peace? Does their vast intellect allow them to be content existing anonymously? Or are peace and turmoil, happiness and unhappiness: are these laughable dualities we’ve invented to keep us occupied chasing after or fleeing from simpleminded abstractions lest we suffocate in our own horrible idleness?
“Hah! As if happiness could be achieved! Happiness is a journey, not a destination!” writes somebody who is not the Smartest Person in the World in a widely circulated popular magazine. It is printed next to an ad featuring a woman snorkeling: “Travel the Caribbean!” because true fulfillment is often found amongst exotic fish.
Alas, the Smartest Person in the World probably finds just as much fulfillment in talking to their neighbor about the weather as they do solving theoretical puzzles. They probably enjoy watching corn grow just as much as watching a symphony play. To them, the Great Plains are just as interesting as the Rocky Mountains. Quantum physics is fascinating, but so is carpentry.
And what is idle banter to most would be for them deep insights into the workings of the human spirit, the mind, the universe: an insight which the World’s Smartest Person would feel no inclination to share with the world.
“But you could make money!” we would say.
“You could be famous!” we would say.
“You could better the world!” we would say.
And they would know we would say this, so instead, they simply smile or frown: Let them think me a fool. It is no matter. “Yes, rain is coming this Thursday. Time to bring the chickens in… Ha ha, my ears are burning; somebody must be talking about me. …what was that? No, I didn’t hear about the fight downtown. Jimmy’s boy? Damned shame. …well, you know what they say: a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush…” and so on and so forth. Just like the rest of us.
By their death, few will have even known their name, which might be for the best. They probably would’ve preferred it that way. Besides, there are some truths we are unequipped to handle.