Patrick Stevens bio photo

Patrick Stevens

Former mathematics student at the University of Cambridge; now a software engineer.

Email Twitter Github Stackoverflow

One day, a group of investors came to Bezos in the Temple and begged of him, “You are known throughout the land for your wisdom. Please tell us: what lessons did you learn early in life, which we have not yet learnt?”

Bezos replied thus.

“When I was but a child, when I had not yet seen seven summers, I discovered that my teacher had a bountiful store of chocolates hidden in the stationery cupboard. Being of an enterprising frame of mind, I proceeded to eat one of them every day for a week.” For he was mindful of the need to preserve the source of good things.

“The next Monday, the teacher took me aside, and asked me whether I had been eating the chocolates. I replied that I had no idea who had been eating the chocolates, and expressed astonishment that indeed there were free chocolates to be had so near to my place of work.” He knew that the key to deceit was remembering what you should know, as a cover for what you did know.

“But the teacher was wise beyond my years. Ey said to me, ‘I saw you take chocolates last Friday!’ And to prove it, ey brandished the selfsame wrapper I had carelessly discarded.” And even these decades later, a tear ran down Bezos’s cheek, that his scheme had failed in so predictable a manner.

“I realised that now was the time for the truth. I explained myself: ‘I am sorry, O teacher, that I allowed you to discover my scheme. I understand now that you become suspicious after only four repetitions of a deception, and not the five I thought were safe. In future, I shall be more careful.’ I was a simple mind then, and believed that it was right to tell the truth. I wished to be held accountable for my lies.” One of the investors nodded sympathetically.

“To my surprise, the teacher flew into a rage. I was put into detention. That day I learnt that while the truth should set you free, this only holds up to the point of maintaining your societal role.” He knew now that truth is secondary, when one is an underling.

“I saw an opportunity to prevent further suffering. ‘I see you are attempting to negatively reinforce me against telling the truth and explaining my actions. I have learnt my lesson - you need not apply further reinforcement. I shall remember this.’”

“And that was the day I was expelled from my school, and was left to forge my own path.”

One’s prescribed roles should not confine behaviour overmuch. That way lies stagnation and inactivity.