The Dumbening

by Nic Olson

If you aren’t getting smarter, you’re getting dumber. There is no in-between. There isn’t a place where you sit content with the exact amount of knowledge that you have, where you remember it all and where it feels good. You will forget the things you’ve learnt unless you continue to use them. If you continue to use them, you can continue to learn new things that relate to the things you already know. If you don’t try to learn more, you are getting dumber. Getting dumber is easy, maybe easier than anything else in the world.

The last month I got dumber. I didn’t read. I didn’t write. I didn’t think. I drank. Likely no more than an average man of my age, but more than what I usually do. I went to watch my brother’s band at The Fez in Saskatoon, bussing both there and back on the STC. In the true spirit of youth, camaraderie, and a sense of defeatism, I drank too much. The bus ride home consisted of a nap, but the work day consisted of simple profit margin calculations that trudged in my brain like graduate-school mathematics. Like rubber boots in a foot of mud. Someone told me that alcoholism inhibits the ability to learn new things. You can function properly, like a normal human being, but you cannot progress. You plateau, and then you get dumber.

Since I am not attending a place of ‘higher learning,’ I force myself to learn on my own. I read as often as I can. I write when I’m not reading. I think of reading and writing when I cannot do either. I consider these as study, not as leisure. I watch as little television as possible. I attempt to regulate my time spent in front of a screen. I take notes. I write down quotes. If I don’t do these things, I am not getting smarter, and if that is the case, we know what is happening. Then I get depressed. I try to self-educate. Smart men were taught by smart men. Smarter men taught themselves.

But when you can’t teach yourself because you are too busy trying to enjoy yourself, or forget the past, or be social, you get dumber. You may make more friends, more inebriated memories, more checks off of the list of movies you need to watch, but your brain is rotting into a sludge that is of no use other than feeding and fattening livestock.

I am slowly pulling myself back together from a month of self-pity, drink, and becoming dumber. It didn’t work out. I cleaned, I baked, I did laundry, and I now sit in a beanbag chair. The greatest minds of all were nurtured in beanbag chairs, so this is where I begin.