Intelligence? Oh, yeah….right!
Would someone please tell me why I would have to write about intelligence just after finding out that a) I had done something incredibly stupid, and b) that I would have to broadcast the fact? (For the curious, I have just had to call an office in Canada, on a Saturday, in a probably vain attempt to get them to FAX me a copy of a drawing I recently sent them. Seems I have somehow mislaid my own only copy. As I said….)
Ah well, it gives me a good launching point into one of my favorite philippics: The dubious worth of intelligence as such.
There is a lot of vanity about intelligence. Some of us seem to feel that its mere possession defines one as a naturally superior human being. As if one is marked as somehow clearly better than the common ruck. Most importantly, many seem to carry this aura with them that says that their superior intelligence is their own personal achievement.
Oh, come on! Intelligence is a gift. A result of good heredity, perhaps, combined with good luck. We deserve as much credit and obeisance for its mere possession as we do for the color of our eyes. With a complete lack of fairness, life presents us all with a mixed bag of assets and liabilities, ab initio, to do whatever we can with them.
The real question, then, becomes: Exactly what have you managed to do with your own particular bog of goodies? What have you made of them? What have you made of yourself?
I put myself in the class of those who have been lucky in the initial draw and then got a bit spoiled by the ease of it all. A bit unfocused perhaps. A bit undisciplined. A lot accomplished along the way, but haunted by the feeling that there was so much more we could have done. Should have done.
Personally, I save my admiration for those I have known who were a bit short changed in the initial draw, but who squeezed every drop from what they were given. I remember a friend who was an appliance repairman. Not a high job, perhaps, but he knew his job completely. Every bit of work he did was as clean and complete as he could make it. And he worked with an economy of motion that was a pleasure to watch. Now, that man I admired!
We should also the blatant absence of any noticeable relationship between intelligence and common sense. Not only do intelligent people sometimes seem to have no sense worth mentioning, but even those who normally seem to be sensible people are occasionally led away on wonderful chains of reasoning into Cloud Cuckoo Land (this one is a specialty of mine). Bob Tutelman say that everyone seems to have some great theory of life, carefully thought out, logically perfect…and wrong.
One can even argue that intelligence often kicks in at the worst moment. Being basically intelligent does not keep one from doing something stupid. It can, however, give one a ripe and refined appreciation of just how stupid it was. (I just got a call back from Canada. Sorry, Mr. Plachy, but we can’t find the drawing you sent us….)