What I Learned from the Door Knob

When people use the phrase “dumb as a door knob”, they’re describing someone who is incredibly stupid. However, have you have thought that even a door knob has a mind of its own?

You’d better believe it!

A door knob might be made of brass, an alloy of copper and zinc held together by what chemists call metallic bonding. Metallic bonding occurs when the outermost electron shells of the metal atoms overlap with those of nearby atoms, forming a delocalized “sea of electron” around positive metal ions.

Each atom in the alloy is further made up of a nucleus of proton and neutron surrounded by an electron cloud. Protons and neutrons are held together by strong nuclear forces, and electromagnetic forces keep the electrons attached to the atoms. When you look inside the atom, things get murkier and murkier. In fact, according to Heisenberg’s Uncertainty Principle, the position and momentum of an object cannot both be known precisely at the same time. Quantum theory explains how all matter, including atoms, molecules and even macroscopic object have both particle-like and wave-like properties.

The various forces that hold a brass door knob together can be considered its “intelligence”. Therefore, a door knob isn’t as dumb as one might think it is. In fact, one way that a door knob is “smarter” than a human being is that the former knows its purpose in life: to simply be. Humans still struggle with that.

The door knob’s purpose isn’t to facilitate the opening of a door– that’s our purpose for it. Its purpose is simply to maintain its structural integrity, and the forces that hold it together is the intelligence that allows it to do so.

Unlike the door knob, humans constantly struggle to find our purpose in life. Our superior intellect, relative to all other living and nonliving things on earth, is both a curse and a blessing. As the human body is said to have up to 100 trillion cells, most of which aren’t even ours, working in concert to make up an extraordinary organism, we can forgiven for the confusion and existential angst that we experience on a daily basis.

This is why we often find comfort by looking to things that are less complex than we are, like trees, flowing water, and even a door knob, for inspiration to become simpler, to quiet our mind and to simply be.