Sunday, April 29, 2007

Joy Finds Wonder Everywhere

I've always been interested in understanding what intelligence means, or what it is. I remember taking a standardized "Intelligence Quotient" test when I was about 4-years old. In college I minored in psychology not because I wanted to know more about psychological trauma and coping or schizophrenia or Carl Jung, but because Howard Gardner's theory of multiple intelligences seemed to be a clue. Also, I'm sure my personal childhood soteriology involved intelligence, because my kind mother always beemed brightest when she told me how smart I was.

And, although it's embarrassing to admit, I have a persistent interest in what seems a very immature question: "How smart am I?" Now, nearing thirty, I ask the question in fairly good faith--not so that I may congratulate myself on being a better person or belittle myself for being an inferior, but only because I genuinely am intrigued by the possibility that different minds have different limitations.

For the record, I remember the day of my 4-year old I.Q. test. It was raining, and I had a fairly long 1-on-1 session with the testing man in a classroom. The only question I remember involved the two of us laying out some wooden blocks in the shape of an arch-on-its-side. After the blocks were all in place, we stood the arch up by tilting up the slab of wood underneath it. When the arch was teetering upright, and the wooden support slab had been removed, the man asked me what would happen if he removed the top/center block? It seemed a ridiculously easy question to me, and I said, "It will fall." I guess most 4-year olds struggle with that question. Whatever.

But, I still want to know about intelligence, and I will even admit I'm probably still insecure about it sometimes--I guess I have always wanted to be recognized as intelligent or something. Again, embarrassing.

I read an essay yesterday by Aldous Huxley about mysticism and intelligence that seemed link-worthy to me at the time. Read it at your leisure. In the office the other day we speculated about an intelligence loop that looked something like this:

1. Unintelligent People
2. Intelligent People
3. Mystics (who could be confused with Dumb People)

So that it's not always apparent who is a 1 and who is a 3. Which made me wonder...

2 comments:

Cathy said...

Like you, my husband has some astronomically high IQ for which I'm afraid I would seriously consider selling my soul. Why? Talk about the forbidden fruit metaphor! He's memorized every line in every Seinfeld episode and most of his favorite movies.

If I had that mind, I could possess my favorite poetry, literature - the great dramas. I imagine walking through Spring reciting all the lovely words created for this season. As it is the only phrase that repeats is: " When pear and cherry bloom went down in showers on sunny days a moment overcast . . "

Still - it is a lovely image and if only one persists - why not this?

Thank God for 'google' - my soul shall stay in my keeping as long as I'm wified and entering 'Spring poetry' in the search box.

As for the genius/mystic connection - My IQ - taken many decades ago - just scraped the bottom rung of 'genius' - I've experienced a few moments of true transcendence. I know many with colossal IQs in the medical field who really wouldn't understand the concept. I guess this plays into Gardner's theory, then.

As I age - Huxley's penchant for shortcuts looks rather appealing - at a very abstract level - as the aging brain is, alas, a little less willing to trip along airy corridors of reverie.

Casey said...

Cathy -- thanks for responding to this post. I felt weird about putting it up... there's a kind of weird entanglement that goes along with trying to talk about intelligence, because a person cannot speak from "off the charts."

My IQ was probably more like yours than like your husband's -- but that shouldn't change anything. There's just something very mysterious to me about the whole idea that a test taken at 4-years old can "predict" future academic and intellectual achievement... a kind of (loose) determinism?

The connection with mysticism is deeply interesting to me as I feel myself tugged in that direction -- but I tend to be skeptical of Huxley's claim. I've never seen any relationship between intelligence and religious belief...

And, not incidentally, I've never seen any documented relationship between intelligence quotient and happiness. So don't even think about selling your soul!