Interesting ideas interspersed with nonsense - RSS - by nikhil bhatla, -
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I Know You
Jun 22, 2008, 11:10a - Life

Off the train, riding the escalator, reading my PCR.

An older guy, maybe 5' 5", playing his harmonica. Glance up, then back to my PCR. Make eye contact, he stops playing.

"I know you."

"You do?"

"Yeah, I know where you're from."

"Where am I from?"



"Where are ya from?"

We get on the second escalator, side-by-side.

"Guess again."

"Somewhere in the Middle-East."


"Huh...I knew a guy from over there. He was my buddy 2000 years ago. You seen him?"


"Jesus. You seen him?" He pats my chest with the back of his hand, a quarter of the way to a shove.


"What ya studying?"


"What ya studying in neuroscience?"





"Yeah, neurons in worms."

"That's good. Good for you. You going to medical school?"


"You do this on your own? Where do you do this?"



"What do you do?"

"I'm a Greek Macedonian."

"You're a what?"

"I'm a Greek Macedonian."

"What's that?"

"I was born 3 blocks from where Alexander the Great lived 2500 years ago. You know where Alexander the Great was from?"

Shake my head.

"He was a Greek Macedonian. Have you heard of Alexander?"


Through the turnstiles, up the third escalator, side-by-side.

"So why you studying neuroscience - you want to help people?"


"Why you doing it?"

"I want to figure out what consciousness is."

"Heh - I know what consciousness is. I can save you a lot of trouble."

"You do?"

"Yeah, I've known it since the first day of my life."

"You know what consciousness is like, but you don't know what consciousness is."

Out the doors, onto the street.

"You know, most people don't think animals are conscious. Just last week, you hear the story about the monkeys?"

"I dunno - no."

"You hear the story about the monkeys?"


"Monkeys are the closest animal to humans, you know that? Turns out, if one monkey attacks another monkey, then... then... then... the other monkey... the other monkey... the other monkey..."

"You going this way?"


Crossing the street.

"From the same group."

"Yeah, from the same group. He'll go over and hug the beaten monkey, kiss the beaten monkey. People think only people do that sort of thing."

"I believe it. I think worms might even be conscious."

"OK, so what's your theory."


"Come on, give it to me."

"OK. So you take a person, and sit them down in a room. Every time you play a flute sound, you puff them in the eye with air. Pretty soon everyone learns to blink when they hear the flute."

"Cause they don't like the puff of air."

"Exactly. Interesting thing is, they learn to blink whether they're aware or not. Many people don't even know why they're blinking."

"I see, I see." A smack on the chest.

"So learning alone isn't equal to awareness. Just cause you can learn something doesn't mean you're aware or conscious. That's just the control. The real experiment..."

"Man, I like that," grinning at a girl walking by.

"So learning isn't the same as awareness."

"I gotcha, I gotcha... But the monkey... I'll tell you something... You know the people who are paying for you? You know they might be controlling you?"


"You know, you know about the butterfly? One night I dreamed I was a butterfly, the next day I was a human again. How do I know that I'm not really a butterfly dreaming to be a human?"

"You don't."

"So someone could be controlling you right now."

"It's possible. But unlikely."


"There's no evidence for it."

"When you do your experiments, you come to conclusions, right?"



"Because there's evidence. If you do something one way, you get the same result. But if you change something, you get something different."

"So why do you believe it?"

"Because there's evidence."

"I dunno."

"I gotta run - see ya 'round."

"Hold on." Grabs me. "You keep doing your studying, I like that. I like that."

"Thanks. See ya."

Read comments (7) - Comment

Garry - Jul 6, 2008, 11:25a
I really enjoyed this. There's something about conversational style writing like this that is always incredibly approachable.

Anonymous - Jul 9, 2008, 1:29p
this is the best thing i've read in a while. seriously.

sam - Jul 9, 2008, 1:30p
i am additionally impressed by your ability to remember that whole conversation (what i am assuming is) pretty much word for word.

nikhil - Jul 9, 2008, 2:59p
yeah, I'm sure the conversation above is not super-accurate, but it was such an unusual conversation that i immediately started playing it back in my head when it was over.

Anonymous - Jul 25, 2008, 10:25a
I felt like i was right there, thanks for sharing. I like how you asked him what do you do and he said, I'm a Greek Macedonian. There's some hilarious truth to that statement.

Harpoon - Jul 25, 2008, 10:39a
The anonymous comment above is by Harpoon (just in case any Greek Macedonians want to join with any Aramean Syrians ;)

David - Oct 25, 2017, 12:23a
Not sure if I'm just reading this now or re-reading this now after 9 years. Either way, your ear for dialogue in this was spot on- whether accurate to the actual conversation or not- it was very believable and did the whole empathy/humor balance very well.

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