When you are annoyed with the know-all, ask them that simplest of things: “what is this which you believe to master so well? What is it?” Most people are unable to answer properly to define the simplest things they believe to know with certainty, from everyday. They never thought to be precise about what they are. Socrates used this question to prove the arrogant that they don’t know what they speak about.
This reminds me of a story:
Tamerlane was a savage beast in his soul but he was a clever man too and liked to surround himself with studious and God-fearing people. Among the erudite and the believers the Emir felt as if he himself were enlightened and good. In this company of respectable ulemas and muftis Nasrudin was just a pet, fed to amuse the empty hours of the ruler. Unfortunately, while Timur was amused, Hoca rarely amused the scholars and they did their best to get rid of the Sufi jester who mocked so often the folly of the learned. At one time of danger they went to denounce him at the feet of Timur and requested – in the name of right thinking and general agreement– the Hodja to be beheaded for heresy.
Nasrudin was brought in the presence of Timur who said:
“Worm, this is your end. The clear thinking people in my divan found your opinion and your words wrong. You confuse the believers with perplexing teaching and mistaken notions. Can you defend yourself?”
“Great Master, replied Nasrudin, before having me put to death, please try these philosophers, so excellent in learning, perfect lawyers, careful inquirers, precise and subtle debaters, with one simple question, to see if their thinking is clear indeed. Pray, ask them to answer – one by one – a simple question: What is air?”
Timur, who liked to try out people as he liked to play chess, sent the ulemas to write down, each separately, the meaning of air. In no time they came back with their answers:
“It’s emptiness, mere nothing.”
“Air is the principle of life, the pure food of the lungs.”
“Air is the godly substance connecting all essences while allowing us to move freely trough it”
“It is the quiet mother of tempest.”
“The stuff of lying promises.”
“Who could know what air is? It comes and goes invisible, without trace.”
“It is the simplest and cheapest element, aplenty for the rich as for the poor.”
“Master of the lucky constellations, do you see how these people cannot agree on the simplest thing? Would you entrust them to judge matters of right and wrong or life and death?”
To this Timur agreed.