Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Can intelligence be felt?

This question has occupied me for some time now. I think it occurred a while back when I did or said or wrote something that somebody thought was clever or smart or something like that and complimented me on it. The truth is I forgot how the question came to be asked, but I remember the sensation when it was. It was a sensation of confusion, puzzlement and certainly disbelief. I felt this because I felt the compliment was misplaced in the sense that I did not deserve it. I felt like I wanted to give some super witty retort like 'Heh, really? I know some guys who shit cleverer things!' or 'Thanks, but the truth is I'm like super stupid. Want to colour some books?'

I just could not accept it which is why I suppose I then end up getting into a protracted and occasional vicious bout of me denying, refusing and denying the compliment on my perceived intellect with a barrage of explanations about my limited intelligence to the complimentor who after his patience has worn out has to end up forcing me to accept the compliment. It's like this with all compliments (me looking slim, me supposedly clever, me actually possessing some skill worth announcing to an ant, etc.) I get except those perhaps directed at my hair, which I'd like to think is fully deserved (where it relates to its softness, body and elegant blending of the white with the black) and happily accept.

But coming back to the mains - ever since that schizm of perception , I have been thinking alot about intelligence and whether we can gauge it from a purely subjective stand point without any other comparison. The simple reason why I reject those compliments on my intellect is because I feel stupid most of the time. If I were clever, surely I should be able to feel it, to know it, to be certain of it. Surely, if I had such intelligence, I could feel its weight on my soul, be able to trace the contours of my cleverness, to wield my intelligence like a surgeon would his scapel. And some people seem confident in their intelligence, they walk around with a little swagger, leap into discussions arse first and bounce back on top of everybody. I feel nothing, just the hollowness of my mind, the faint echo of my thoughts that hover like fine mist that disappears at the touch of an outstretched hand. I feel no shape, no weight, no colour. Sometimes I imagine my intellect to be like a multi-faceted diamond suspended in the air and slowly, ever so slowly turning. But I know its not like that. It's not so nuanced. It's like a flat blistering desert where the constant whimsical winds shape and re-shape the endless dunes, never allowing a path to form.

I often wonder, what it must feel like to be like those terribly clever men, like Bertrand Russell, John Kay, Einstein, John Ruskin, John Nash... okay maybe not because he was nuts too, but men like that. No one can deny their intellectual fortitude and magnitude. And they looked it too. Their intelligence resonated in photos of them, there was this personal field of gravitas whenever they spoke or opened their mouth. Hell, I bet they even looked regal when they shat. Our eyes may see the same thing, but what else are they thinking when we look at the same things? How does their mind work? Is it arranged in a particular pattern? Perhaps the gears in their minds are finer, smaller, more precisely made and mine are from make shift bullock cart spare parts. Or its vice versa and they are better able to use their bullock cart spare parts better than I do those small annoying gears.

What's funny though is that you don't need a lot of intelligence to identify stupidity. And I can certainly feel the weight of my stupidity. Perhaps I cannot feel the weight of my intelligence because it is lighter than my stupidity. Or perhaps stupidity is that lightness of intellect that I feel.

Maybe I need a drink.


Deux Anges said...

If intelligence is the ability to stimulate others into thinking making connections between different thoughts and concepts, then you are definitely “it”. There were so many things here on which we could discuss, but I will limit myself into the two main ones that came to the foremost while I was reading your article.
Firstly, on the preception of cleverness: The key is confidence. If you say things with enough authority, people will believe you and think you knowledgable. Whether this is actually the case is incidental. I've been doing it for years and no one has yet stood up and called me a fraud (or at least not to my face!). I think most people do not consciously “feel” intelligent but I suppose that is a good thing. It would be enormously conceited for people to go around thinking “I’m really clever”, whether they truly are or not. It would also undoubtedly be extremely irritating for everyone else. No one likes a smart arse.
Your writing also reminded me of a bigger question I posed to myself recently: Is simply being intelligent a good thing? By this I mean does/will it make me a more fulfilled, happier, more rounded human being? This past twelve months I have begun to think that the answer is no, but that’s a topic for another day...
Now I need a drink.

Daef said...

Thanks for your thoughts Deux Anges and I am somewhat agreed with you on confidence being the key to the perception of cleverness but confidence only fools those who are insecure, ignorant or are taken in by superficialities. The example of you does not count because you are a pretty smart bastard for the longest time I've known you. Confidence does not fool those people with true wisdom. They see past the charade and it is these people that I fear sometimes because how foolish and petty I must seem to them. These people need no show of confidence because they can hear the resonance of truth in the very words and mode of our delivery. So we can preen like a peacock but they will know we are still talking cock.

Now as to the bigger question you posed, it is one that used to occupy myself too. So if i haven't said it before, it is nice to know that you are proficient and enjoy the vigorous bouts of mental masturbation. Unmitigated intelligence is not a good thing. And what is the mitigation? Believe it or not I tend to think it is stupidity. I am now such a believer in balance (except when it comes to sex) that I think that intelligence has to be balanced by deliberate bouts of stupidity. It is not enough to merely hope to do something stupid or to stumble upon it. No, we must find opportunities of stupidity and seize upon them. And if we can do stupid things with comfortable company, do so. My tentative reasoning for this is that intelligence doesn't really give us good memories upon which to reflect. Stupid, crazy and insane things do and its more fun when it's with people cos then you can have a good laugh about it over alcohol or drugs. Those latter two things are great friends of stupidity and so when we are able, we should frequently acquaint ourselves with them. They are facilitative of stupidity and therefore of benefit to intelligence (of the higher order - not in general).

Now I need many drinks.

(And I'm serious about what I wrote up there. Don't be fooled by the frivolity of my expression).

art harun said...

Correct Daef my man. Intelligence needs to be balanced by stupidity. You are already practising it I see. That's why we are friends. :)