Tuesday, March 27, 2012

The Genie and the Mind - Part II

The Genie and the Mind - Part II: continued from previous post.

"It is a long story, do you really want to hear the details?" the visitor exclaimed. The old man offered him a comfortable chair in the den and the children were asked to play outside while the two men talked. The room was dark, the darkness punctuated by a table lamp that lit up a desk that was covered with assorted books and papers. The wall behind them had a large bookshelf adorned with ancient looking books, some of which had etched gold lettering that was hard to discern in the dark. The visitor asked the old man what he had done for a living and if he read a lot. The old man said that his life was generally made easy by all the things that the Genie brought him. His professional life as a  salesman was overshadowed by an easy and rich material life the Genie had brought him. Now, what little spare time the Genie left him with was spent looking back at his life and pondering the 'what ifs'.

"My childhood was a hard one," visitor said. "I was not the brightest kid in school, I had a great deal of difficulty in math and had a very hard time dealing with numbers." The old man thought that this seemed paradoxical that the visitor would later in life become a successful banker.

"I would return home from school, often laden with homework which I could not complete, especially the ones dealing with math and numbers. My parents would try and help but they were not great with numbers either. I remember my father's frustrations at his inability to help me complete my homework. They tried many different things to help me, including hiring tutors, but I had the hardest time getting the basic concepts right."

The visitor continued to reminisce about his childhood. As he talked he walked over to the bookshelf and pulled out a thick leather bound book that looked worn. He held the book up in the air and said, "A book that looked just like this changed by life forever." As he randomly flipped through the pages he looked as if he was about to experience a rebirth of his childhood that he was talking about.

"One day, I returned from school with a letter from the teacher to my parents that had expressed serious concerns about my academic performance. My father looked at the letter, put it down on the dinner table and looked like he was deep in thought, his fingers making pensive tapping motions on his forehead as if he was trying to coax out a solution." The visitor then added, "After several minutes of meditative silence, my father broke out into a smile that suggested he finally found a way to help me."

The visitor's father then told him "Son, I have something that may help you. My father gave me a book that has been in our family for several generations. He said that whoever really understood how to use what was in the book would be very successful in life. Each night I would read a page of the book, when I finally finished reading the book I could not fathom how a story about the adventures of a boy and his pet monkey could change anyone's life. Respecting the fact that the book was handled with great care by several generations, I kept it safely tucked under my pillow for many years. Eventually, not seeing the success in life that I thought would come to me by having this book in close proximity, I placed it a safe along with several other family heirlooms".

The visitor's father then said "Just as my father gave me this book, I am giving it to you, my son. Using this book, I hope you find success in life that eluded me. You may not do well in professions that have anything to do with numbers, but there are plenty of other respectable jobs that you may like and excel at."

The visitor said " I sensed a tinge of sadness in his tone when he made the last statement. I wanted to prove to him that I could do well in a job that dealt with numbers. That is when I decided to one day become a banker."

"I then took the book from my father and promised him that I would read it and work hard at finding its secret and one day would make him proud. With a renewed sense of hope for my future, I took my homework and the newly acquired gift from the father and set out to my bedroom. Once I got there, I put the homework aside and started thumbing through the book. There was something that struck me as odd about the hardbound book I had in my hands. As I opened the middle of the book, the binding stitches seemed to be placed well away from the spine of of book, and looking at the book from above, there was a gap between the spine of the book and the binding stitches, where the pages were tightly stacked together. "

The visitor continued "I then flipped the book around in my hands and started tapping on the spine of the book. After several taps, I heard a very strange clicking noise which seemed to emanate from within the book. I flipped through the pages and did not see anything. I again opened the pages in the middle of the book exposing the binding stitches. These stitches started to unravel and the tightly bound pages came apart and there appeared a tiny, well crafted lamp with a long curved handle. I picked up the lamp in my hands and there was a big puff of smoke and out came a bearded being in a costume that would not be out of place at a Halloween party."

"They call me the wish fulfilling Genie" exclaimed the strange looking person that appeared out of the lamp. "I thank you for releasing me from generations of captivity within that musty old book, and for that I am eternally grateful to you. I have the power to grant your wishes, but I cannot control what you do with what I give you. In return for what I can do for you, I ask that you keep me engaged in doing some work for you all the time. If not, a great danger may befall you." The Genie stressed the words 'great danger' as if to scare the visitor who was holding the lamp. On hearing these words, the lamp slipped out of his limp and sweaty fingers and a sensation of fear and thrill coursed through the visitor's body.

On regaining his composure, the visitor decided to ask the Genie for something before this dream like experience disappeared. "Hey Genie, my most pressing need at the moment is help with understanding my homework related to math and numbers. Can you help me with that?"

"Is that your wish, sir?" the Genie asked. The visitor said, "Yes Genie, my wish is that you help me complete my homework."

Without wasting a moment. the Genie set to organize the homework and laid out all the books and papers on a desk in the corner of the room. The Genie studied the open books in front of him and said "Hmm, it appears that these problems have solutions that require many steps to solve. I can get you a book that gives you the answers."

The visitor told the Genie "The answers are easy to obtain, but what I really need is to understand how to get to the answers." At this point, the visitor also questioned whether the Genie could truly help him or not and asked the Genie a simple question, "Can you count from 1 to 100?" The genie rattled off the numbers. The visitor asked him again "Now count backwards from 100 to 1." The genie did so without hesitation.

The visitor then had an idea. He picked a math problem and asked the Genie to recite the steps from the question to the answer and backwards from the answer to the question several times. After listening to the Genie say it a few times, the steps started to sink in and the visitor was able to solve similar problems using pattern recognition. The Genie did not seem to lose patience or energy as they went through the day's homework.

In course of time, the visitor then asked for the Genie's help is solving increasingly harder math problems and in a year since he met the Genie, he was at the top of his class. He entered college on a scholarship and left with ivy-league credentials. This helped him get his first job at a blue chip banking firm. Using the tools he had acquired with the help of the Genie, he would later ascend to the top and led the bank for many successful years before he retired.

The old man listening to the visitor's account with great attention, asked him "It appears that the success you achieved was in large part due to your efforts and less so the Genie's help." The visitor said "I don't necessarily agree with that. I took the help of the Genie and applied what I learnt. Only recently, after achieving much success in life, did I fully understand what my father meant when he said only those who really understand how to use the book would truly find success in life."

The old man then asked the visitor " You asked the Genie for help with your coursework, but how were you able to keep the Genie occupied when you did not need him? After all, I did not hear about the 'great danger' the Genie threatened if you did not keep him occupied all the time."

The visitor broke out into a smile and said "Ah ha, that is the secret to my success and the happiness that has come with it."

The old man said "Please share your secret with me. As I shared with you my experience with the Genie, in the beginning there was a lot of happiness and of late it has brought me nothing but misery."

The visitor said "On encountering the Genie, one of the first things I asked the Genie to do was to count from 1 to 100 and backwards from 100 to 1. Later on, once the Genie was finished with a task, he would come back to me asking me for more things to do. When I was running out of things for him to do, he kept bringing up the 'great danger' that would come to me if I did not keep him occupied. He even suggested that he could get me a nicer house, bigger car and other fine things in life. Since I was so focused on work, these things did not interest me a whole lot. So, I came up with a simple solution. I told the Genie that whenever I did not need him, he was required to count from 1 to 100 and when he was finished with that, to count backwards to 1. I told him to go on repeating this till I had something different for him to do. "

"Even now, he is somewhere around us counting non-stop." The visitor added.

The old man summoned his Genie. He wanted to try this on him. He asked his Genie to start counting from 1 to 100 and backwards from 100 to 1 and to keep repeating this over and over again. The Genie remained occupied with this and the old man now felt that he could get his old life back and thanked the visitor for this tip.

The old man then asked the visitor "Did you go inside your old house down the street?"

The visitor said "Yes. There is a kind old lady who is now the current occupant of the house. I asked her if I could look around. She let me in and I went up to my old bedroom where I had first encountered the Genie. Once the Genie came out of the book, I subsequently hid the book under some loose floorboards in the bedroom. I found the book intact in its hiding place and I asked the old lady if I could keep it. She agreed and the book is now in my car.  Once I saw the Genie, I never read the story of the little boy and his pet monkey. Now I plan to read it."

The old man asked the visitor if he would share the story in that book once he had read it. The visitor promised he would come back one day and tell the old man what he had learnt from the book. It was getting dark outside and the visitor stood up to leave. The old man said "Before you leave, could I make one request?"

"What is it?" The visitor asked.

The old man said "If it is okay with you, I would like to talk to your grandchildren about what not to do if they encounter their own Genie. My time is running out and I discovered very late in life how to tame my Genie using the simple technique you shared with me. I would like for them to not repeat my mistake."

The visitor thought that this was a good idea and called out for his grandchildren. The old man arranged for juice and cookies for the children and sat down to talk to them.