When I was young, being more intelligent than everybody around me was all-important.
I played chess as a teenager. If I won, I was elated because it proved that I was a superior intelligence. If I lost, I was devastated.
I was an okay player, but I still got devastated a lot.
There was nothing higher than genius. Nothing was lower than being stupid.
Clearly, people would love me the best if I could just somehow drive home the point that I was smarter than them. How could they not love somebody so superior? Sadly, they often just frustrated me with their inane reactions to my efforts to enlighten them through my displays of superiority. They were so hard to understand.
Then at one point in my adult life, I went through something of a crisis. (Through no fault of my brilliant mind, of course.) But one of the outcomes of that crisis, was that I realized something new. A simple truth that amazed me. It redefined intelligence and stupidity.
But, before I tell you what it is, I want you to not get bummed out or anything. It may sound negative at first, but it's implications are very positive:
Intelligence is not the opposite of stupidity. Intelligence is the capacity for stupidity. The greater the intelligence, the greater the capacity for stupidity.
You can take my word for it. I know this to be true from experience, for I am a very intelligent man. :)
If you think of it. The people who have IQ's in the 80's are not so stupid. They may have lower capacity for many kinds of productive mental labor, and they may be prone to certain mistakes, but they tend to experience a fairly static range of difficulties.
But when you are intelligent -- when you are very intelligent -- there is no end to the stupidity you can produce. I know, for I am a very intelligent man. :)
Dr. Edward DeBono, who is famous for his work on the subject of thinking, once said that having a great intelligence is like having a fast car with a powerful motor. It has nothing to do with driving skill. A person may have a less powerful car, but be a very good driver. Likewise, a less intelligent person may be a better thinker.
Dr. DeBono was not arguing for less intelligence. He was promoting better thinking.
One of the reasons for this is that more intelligent people, having much more powerful minds, are often able to defend their reasoning so much more effectively than others. They can also defend their mistakes. Even from themselves.
Our biggest problem is our own arrogance.
But, why is this a positive message? How does this help?
It helps, because it makes it possible to see the elephant under the rug. Stupidity is not a crime. It's not even something to be ashamed of. It just is. And it tends to go up with IQ.
But willfully hanging on to our stupidity -- that is shameful! We can recognize it. We can do something about it.
And we can even start to fix some of the problems in our own lives that have baffled us. They baffled us because we believed a different paradigm. Namely, that intelligence is the opposite of stupidity.
Accept it. Understand it. Intelligence is no longer the opposite of stupidity. It is (among other things) the capacity for stupidity. And if we understand that, and embrace that fact, other lives can get better.
Spread the word.