World’s Hardest Riddle

While I was looking at something else (the awesome “The Hardest Game Boss Ever!” video), I randomly bumped into a video version of a riddle, called “World’s Hardest Riddle“. Watching, I immediately recognized the riddle and its answer from my childhood, when I guess I’d heard it a few times. Further, I remembered just how awesome I thought the riddle was. Really great.

So it was with some dismay that I realised watching it this time that it’s a deeply stupid riddle. Maybe all riddles are, I don’t know, but this one’s definitely a loser. Its basic flaw is a kind of ridiculous simplifying of the nature of life, a kind of fundamentalist view, say, aptly reflected in its leveraging of “god” and the “devil” in the riddle itself. A world of absolutes.

Alright, so the answer to the riddle is “nothing” right? Sorry if I wrecked your life, but there it is. After giving you the answer, the video smugly goes back through the hints showing you just how great it is. “NOTHING has seven letters” – well, that’s straightforwardly true.

“NOTHING preceded God” and “NOTHING is more evil than the devil”. Perhaps these are up for grabs for some of us. I remember finding it perfectly acceptable as a child, but now it irks me that there’s this particular rhetoric built in. But okay, we’ll give it to them, whatever.

Now we get weird. “All poor people have NOTHING” and “Wealthy people need NOTHING”. Wait, what? Some more intensely absolute ideology on the part of the riddle-maker. The religious stuff is kind of acceptable because, at least within the (Christian) theistic world view, those things are pretty much true. But under what view is it true that poor people have nothing and wealthy people need nothing? Crikey, we’re teaching our kids these riddles?

And “If you eat NOTHING you will die”. Fine. A more solid ending, relatively clever. Good, good. So, on the balance there are two relatively harmless components, two “depends on your theology” components, and two grotesquely objectionable, extremist capitalism components. Ultimately, to get through the riddle successfully you’d have to be some kind of raving theistic capitalist.

Like 80% of kindergarten children are, of course.

5 November 2010
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