See that kid over there?

Fat boy?

Yeah. Dude's a fighting game genius. Doesn't matter what game, doesn't matter who's the opponent, he'll win. It's weird.

Sounds like he's in need of a manager.

Most definitely, but I find it intriguing.

How so?

Why does a species produce an individual possessing a talent that is entirely useless to the further well being of said species?

Well, suppose aliens invaded and they had a twisted fascination for people playing video games. They would kill off every individual who did not share our fat friend's talent. The remaining individuals of the population would then mate and create offspring also possessing the gene of video game badassery. Thus the species would survive this evolutionary catastrophe. Fat boy's talent is a random mutation generated by the gene pool for just such an occasion.

But video game badassery is not genetic, it's too complex and too specific to be genetically encoded. Genes specify traits, strong eye-hand coordination, fast reflexes, basic behavioral building blocks. A number of these genetic traits are required for said badassery, but nothing so specific. Genetics only provides fertile ground for fat boy's talent. There's something else at work.

Hmm… It would appear the underlying mystery is talent itself.

What exactly is talent?

Genes are too broad, behavior learned through traditional study is too slow and too clumsy.

Certain genetic predispositions are required, yes?

Mmm... agreed.

Then maybe what's at work is some mechanism of learning that is hitherto unmentioned.

The talented still study and practice, they just learn and make connections much faster.

But why is it so specific? Why does fat boy suck at everything else?

Intent. Fat boy likes fighting games more than he likes anything. He concentrates more, doesn't get disappointed, or frustrated. He feels at home playing. It liberates him, while everything else is taxing.

So if we gave him something similar in genetic requirements as his fighting games, say driving, fat boy might become a Formula 1 champ, but only if he felt as passionately about F1 as he does about fighting games.

Except he's too fat to fit in the car.

Shall we make him run a bit then.

We shall.


Talent can be a weird thing to think about. I think the accepted definition of talent assumes that the act already exists, which can be depressing.

Consider Mozart. Everyone knows (at least us highly educated everythingers) that Mozart was a musical genius. He was able to sit down and write symphonies in one sitting. He just understood music completely (go read about him; or don't). Archetype would have it that he was born with all of the genes that would make him a "musical genius."

The weird part of it: what if music (as we know it) had not been invented yet when Mozart lived? If this were the case, Mozart (assuming that he only had the "musical genius" genes and they could not function in any other way except for music) would not have any talent at all, for his forte would not have existed.

What this means is that I could have a talent that would make me the happiest and richest man alive, but the thing that I would apply my talent to has not been invented yet. And unless my talent involves inventing things, I will probably have to live my life working a boring 9-5 job and die unhappy. All of this because my special talent that would make me happy cannot be applied to anything.

Talent. Do you have it? Do I have it? Supposedly, everyone has an area of expertise that is referred to as a talent. Nevertheless, isn't it troubling that one's amount of talent is mostly determined by the opinions of other people? I certainly think so.

Let's look at Danielle Steel. Did you know she has written over 55 best selling novels? Sure, they are filled with 6th grade level vocabulary, but they do have those all-too-arousing love scenes, don't they? Okay, so we know she sucks as a writer. But since those housewives keep throwing her poorly written excuse for a novel on the grocery store counter between the cereal and orange juice, she thinks she has talent. Wow. If only she knew.

Britney Spears is considered one of the most powerful people and is rich, filthy stinkin' rich. And do you know why she's rich? Well, I'll tell you. Because sex sells (same goes for Danielle). Although, I can almost assure you that is not the reason she thinks common folk like me have seen her pretty face pasted everywhere from Tower Records in Piccadilly Circus to my own local bookstore in southern California. Oh no, of course that has nothing to do with her young, almost completely exposed body or her sexy choreographed dance moves. She must surely have talent to sell millions of CDs and be oh-so-popular! Right? Very, very wrong. Sorry Brit, you don't even write your own music and I would rather count the number of ants crawling around in my backyard for an hour than listen to you attempt to sing for 5.

Wait. Hold on! Step back and calm down for a moment! Yes, Britney calls herself an "entertainer", but do you know many singers who aren't entertainers? I didn't think so. And yes, I do know quite enough about her to know she thinks she has talent. And Ms. Romance could degrade her own writing, but she's still doing the job that only a person of talent should have. No matter what she may say about her own written creations, until she moves on to doing something else, well, she will never have a chance to realize how much the better the world would be without her.

I am not saying Danielle and Britney have no talent. Danielle is great at fooling people into thinking her writing is worthy of being published and bought. And also, she may be wonderful at many things that the average person doesn't know of, but whatever that is, she's not making millions doing it. As for Britney, well, she sure as hell can dance, but what does that have to do with her vocal career? Not much.

So far, it has been at least proven that people can be made millionaires doing what too many other people are so much better at. Also, I think we agree that a person can be led to believe that they have talent because other people tell them so with their actions, not because they actually do.

I think the hardest part of talent is making other's believe you have it.

I'm going to use myself for this example. Since I have begun writing, I have been told that I am a good writer, it's a gift that I should put to use, my writing makes me uniquely special and mostly, I have heard time and time again, it's my talent.

Writing is my talent?

Well, the other night, I was sharing a piece of my writing with a friend and he did not seem too excited about it. I had recently become use to expecting compliments on my writing, but he wasn't giving any. I was shocked, somewhat appalled, almost sick, but mostly, I was hurt because I started to doubt myself and my talents.

I started to ask myself questions like these:

What does he mean? Why isn't he amazed by my brilliance? Maybe I'm horrible and I have been constantly lied to for the last 10 years?! How can this be? If I'm not a good writer, what am I?

Just as beauty is in the eye of the beholder, the same goes for talent.

So hate me! Think I suck and I should disappear forever from E2! Spit at your computer screen and twist your face in disgust!

But guess what? Even though I may not fool you into thinking I'm talented, there's a few other billion people I might. Wish me luck.

KANJI: SAI (talent, years old, genius)

ASCII Art Representation:

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Character Etymology:

The current meaning is the result of borrowing from a now unknown, lost character. The current character is a heavily stylized pictograph representing a a dam streching across a river.

A Listing of All On-Yomi and Kun-Yomi Readings:

on-yomi: SAI
kun-yomi: none

Nanori Readings:

Nanori: none

English Definitions:

  1. SAI: ability, talent, aptitude, genius, acumen, intelligence, wit; cubic foot; year, age; time; occasion; opportunity; limit; vicinity.
  2. -sai: years old, age, year.
  3. zae: intelligence, ability, talent.

Character Index Numbers:

New Nelson: 2059
Henshall: 126

Unicode Encoded Version:

Unicode Encoded Compound Examples:

(nanasai): 7 years of age.
(saiki): wisdom.
(saiki kanpatsu): great wisdom.

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Tal"ent (?), n. [F., fr. L. talentum a talent (in sense 1), Gr. a balance, anything weighed, a definite weight, a talent; akin to to bear, endure, , L. tolerare, tollere, to lift up, sustain, endure. See Thole, v. t., Tolerate.]


Among the ancient Greeks, a weight and a denomination of money equal to 60 minæ or 6,000 drachmæ. The Attic talent, as a weight, was about 57 lbs. avoirdupois; as a denomination of silver money, its value was £243 15s. sterling, or about $1,180.

Rowing vessel whose burden does not exceed five hundred talents. Jowett (Thucid.).


Among the Hebrews, a weight and denomination of money. For silver it was equivalent to 3,000 shekels, and in weight was equal to about 93 lbs. avoirdupois; as a denomination of silver, it has been variously estimated at from £340 to £396 sterling, or about $1,645 to $1,916. For gold it was equal to 10,000 gold shekels.


Inclination; will; disposition; desire.


They rather counseled you to your talent than to your profit. Chaucer.


Intellectual ability, natural or acquired; mental endowment or capacity; skill in accomplishing; a special gift, particularly in business, art, or the like; faculty; a use of the word probably originating in the Scripture parable of the talents (Matt. xxv. 14-30).

He is chiefly to be considered in his three different talents, as a critic, a satirist, and a writer of odes. Dryden.

His talents, his accomplishments, his graceful manners, made him generally popular. Macaulay.

Syn. -- Ability; faculty; gift; endowment. See Genius.


© Webster 1913.

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