It was before the First World War, when, for the first time in the world, ration cards were invented, and he had gone to take his ration. He was standing in a line and people went on moving forward. When his number came and he was at the front of the line, they called again and again, “Thomas Alva Edison, is there anybody by the name of Thomas Alva Edison?” And he looked here and there: who is this Thomas Alva Edison?
One neighbor standing behind, far back in the line, said, “What are you looking at? You are Thomas Alva Edison, I know you.”
He said, “If you say so, then certainly I must be, because you are such a nice guy, you can’t lie.”
What happened to him? How did he forget his name? Even standing in the queue for the ration card, he was not there. He was in the world of electricity. He was figuring out things which had no concern with the place where he was standing or with the ration card or with the person named Thomas Alva Edison.
It is said… Perhaps it is just a joke, but it is possible that if a man can forget his own name it may be true and not a joke. He was going on a journey. He kissed his maidservant thinking she was his wife, and patted his wife thinking she was the maidservant. They both were shocked. But he said, “What is the matter? Why are you both looking shocked? Aren’t you my wife and isn’t she my maidservant?” And he was not joking; he was simply not there.
Obsession means you are possessed by some idea so totally that everything else becomes absolutely unimportant, everything else falls into darkness. Only one spot remains lighted, and it goes on growing narrower and narrower and narrower. That’s the way of discovery. When it comes to be the narrowest, you have found the center for which you have been looking for years. But when your focus is narrowing, and when the circle of your focus is becoming smaller and smaller, what about you? You are also becoming narrower and narrower – one-pointed. The whole universe disappears for you.
The scientist is bound to be obsessed: the greater the scientist, the bigger the obsession. Hence, obsession is not a disease for a scientist, it is absolutely necessary. It is his way of working. If you relieve him of his obsession he will be an ordinary man, not a scientist.
It is defined, that science knows more and more about less and less. The object of knowledge becomes less and less, and your knowledge of it becomes more and more. If the definition is stretched to its logical conclusion, it means science ultimately will come to a point where it knows everything about nothing. That will be the logical conclusion.
And science is coming closer to that point where it knows all about nothing, because “less and less” is finally going to become nothing. And knowledge about “more and more” is finally going to become all.