Rhyson vs. Dr. Spectacles

May 5, 2009

A boy, an aspiring poet named Rhyson, walked into his science class late, as ever.
“I don’t even want to see you come in anymore if you can’t make it on time, Rhyson,” his teacher, Dr. Spectacles, said. “Go down to the front office and wait there for the rest of the period. You’ll be making this one up after school. Detention ’til 4:40, right here.”
“Aw, c’mon man…” Rhyson began.
“Go,” said Dr. Spectacles.
Rhyson went.

Around 3 p.m. Rhyson was sitting at his desk in Dr. Spectacles’ classroom. He could see out the window, which fact he loved and hated in summer, which it was. The school sounded quiet and underpopulated. Girls he could only just tell were girls but knew were pretty were practicing field hockey maneuvers on the fields far out to about his north-northwest, if his desk was north. Late spring air drifted lazily in through opened windows like truant children.

“Hello, Rhyson,” said Dr. Spectacles as he came in, mispronouncing the name for the nth time.
“I told you, Doc, you say it like ‘reason,'” Rhyson said. “Like, ‘the reason I was late before is ’cause–‘”
“I don’t really want any excuses, son,” said Dr. Spectacles. “Now, as far as today’s lesson, when you walked in we were talking about simple machines…”

After about twenty minutes of screws-and-axes-talk, Rhyson had had enough. Dr. Spectacles was in the middle of a deft illustration linking the common wood screw to the class’s more recent lesson on applied forces, which Rhyson had also missed and didn’t regret missing.
“Hey Doc,” Rhyson said, hand in the air. “Why hasn’t there been any new simple machines?”
“There are only six, Rhyson,” Dr. Spectacles said. “And stop calling me that.”
“Until someone invents a new one though, right?”
“No, there are only six simple machines. Those are the six simplest machines you can have. There are no others.”
Rhyson glanced at the clock, glanced out the window.
“Well, what about a slinky?” he asked. “How come that’s not one of the simple machines?”
Dr. Spectacles abandoned his chalk and sat-stood at his desk, hands crossed on a knee. He appeared to be riding the desk side-saddle.
“Because it doesn’t do anything,” he said. “It can’s move an object anywhere.”
“Sure it can. It can move itself downstairs.”
“Gravity does that.”
Rhyson thought for a minute.
“Well, gravity moves a ball down an inclined plane, doesn’t it? Why isn’t gravity the simple machine?”
“Well, yes, but–” Dr Spectacles began. “It’s different.”
“Different how?”
“Just different. Now, we’ve really got to get back to–”
“Doc, what about a belt?”
Dr. Spectacles frowned. “Rhyson, a belt doesn’t move anything either–”
“Sure it does.” Even with all his willpower focused on the task at hand, Rhyson couldn’t help a small eye-tic towards the northwest. “It stops my pants from falling down. It defies gravity, so it must exert an upward force on my pants of at least 9-point… whatever… whatevers… right?”
“Well, no, technically it’s exerting a force inward, creating enough friction to counteract the forces of gravity on your pants.”
“Ohh…well, waht about a bouncy ball? When I throw it at the ground it switches around the forces of both gravity and my throw, causing it to redirect and defy gravity.”
“Well, first of all, it involves rubber, a complex man-made substance, and–”
“Hey! Rubber! Rubber is a simple machine!”
“Er…no, you see–”
“Doc, we just invented a new simple machine!”
“No, it doesn’t–”
“The Bouncer!”
“Well, it really doesn’t–”
“Sure it does.”
“It does what?”
“It bounces. Watch.”
“Okay, yes, yes, but…you didn’t invent the bouncy ball, now did you? Someone else had to. So it’s not our invention anymore, now is it, Rhyson?”
“Oh, I suppose not… jeez, Doc, this is hard. How did the great ones do it? The da Vincis, the Einsteins, the Picassos, how did they invent so many new things?”
“Well, Picasso wasn’t an inventor, but–”
“Sure he was. He invented a painting in my house.”
Dr. Spectacles began to protest, but thought better of it.
“Rhyson, the great inventors of the past, they learned theories of science, tested them, and built on the successes of their predecessors, just as I do today.”
“Okay, so… da Vinci, he learned from someone else before him, and, say, Newton learned from him, and now you learn from Newton?”
“Something like that.”
“But if there was always some scientific authority before da Vinci, Newton, Einstein, and you, how does anyone invent anything new? How does science progress?”
“Well, they – and I – advance scientific discovery by questioning the accepted theories of our predecessors.”
“But didn’t I just question the theory of simple machines?”
“Yes, but you’d have to prove it wrong to advance another theory. You didn’t do that.”
“This is ridiculous.”
“I was just thinking the same thing…”
“So what you’re saying is that da Vinci, Picasso, Lincoln, all those guys–”
“But Lincoln didn’t–!”
“Five dollar bill. So what you’re saying is that all those guys made new theories by questioning the old theories…”
“…and the reason that people believe their discoveries is that they took the time to prove them…”
“…and so if you think about it eventually someone will come along and disprove the current theory of, say, gravity, if they just take the time to learn the old theories, question them, and disprove them, right?”
“Well, possibly, but–”
“Boy, I really think you’re wasting your time, Doc.”
Dr Spectacles’ eyes narrowed.
“Really? What gave it away?”
“What’s the point of advancing new theories if someone is just going to come along and disprove them?”
“Ah, well, yes, well, the end-goal of all scientific inquiry is to create one Grand Unifying Theory, which serves as an umbrella theory, by which we can understand all of our previous efforts and discoveries.” Rhyson noticed a vaguely glazed look creeping into Dr. Spectacles’ eyes.
“But won’t someone just come and disprove that theory?”
“But Doc–”
Dr. Spectacles practically barked at the interruption.
“The Grand Unifying Theory will be capable of explaining all aspects and relationships of the scientific world, identifying with and humiliating them all simultaneously, like post-modernism for lab geeks. It will take all theories and accepted rules and unite them in one common algorithm which will provide us with the answer to every question in science…”
“…and it would be based on the previous theories, right, Doc?”
“Yes… it will take all those theories and make them fact… indisputable…”
“Based on the same theories that are being disproven as we speak?”
“Yes, but this theory will be perfect… Every unknown that man has ever not known, every phenomenon he couldn’t explain, every time some little bastard kid asked Science ‘why,’ and Science couldn’t answer–”
“Little bastard kids like me, Doc?”
“Yes, Rhyson, just like you. Er… no–look. Every aspect of life and the universe will be explained by the Grand Unifying Theory. No other theories will be needed… it will be un-disprovable… it will be perfect in every way… in short, by discovering this theory, Science will have burned off the mists, we will scrape off the moss, we will have turned over the murky mountain hiding place that is the realm of God.”
Outside, Rhyson could see acres of green grass, freshly cut.
“I dunno, Doc. Sounds like bullshit to me.”
“Rhyson! Detention–you–tomorrow I’ll tell the–how dare–”
“You’re going to base a theory which you make out to be Truth, big T, and the discovery of God and whatnot, on other people’s theories that, by the very existence of this Grand Unifying Theory, will be completely disproven and flawed? It’s a friggin’ pipe dream. You’re losin’ it, Doc.”
Dr. Spectacles stared, his mouth like a trout’s mouth.
“You know, Doc? You really should have gone into poetry. Way more common sense and practicality in poetry.”
Dr. Spectacles began to sputter and foam.
“What?! Common sense in poetry? Poetry is the pipe dream! It’s completely impractical! At best, it’s frivolous entertainment. At worst, it’s some snot-nosed, air-headed smartass twentysomething living on bread and cheese in some Brooklyn footlocker scribbling verse after tortured verse, thinking they’ll be the next Bard of American Truth, big T and all… when really all they’re doing is wasting their own time and potential, countless efforts on the part of their parents to set them straight, and thousands on thousands of taxpayer dollars when they realize what a colossal mistake they’ve made and end up on welfare in a Southern California trailer park.”
Rhyson sighed, stood up, and began packing books into his bag.
“Yeah, Doc, but at least the poet has the sense, the spirit, and the guts to admit that he doesn’t have a clue what he’s talking about.”
He patted Dr. Spectacles on the back on his way out of the room.
“4:42, Doc. See you around.”
It took a good twenty minutes or so before Dr. Spectacles got up and saw, through the window, across well-mown lawns, a crowd of flashing white uniforms and tanned legs, little curved sticks and ponytails, bustling and floating and darting around a tiny, distant black speck.


One Response to “Rhyson vs. Dr. Spectacles”

  1. Peter Says:

    “It appears that certain people think that poetry should be a certain way. For these, there will be nothing but troubled years. More and more people will come along to break their concepts. It’s hard I know, like having somebody fuck your wife while you are at work, but life, as they say, goes on.”


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