My sister and I were out in London doing a bit of shopping.
We went from shop to shop as you do and finally my sister fell in love with a pair of boots.
“Can I have these shoes in size 6” The assistant came back with a size 4.
“Why did you bring me a size 4 when I asked for a size 6?”
The assistant replied “I thought you meant American sizing”. Why did she think that my sister would ask for the American size 4 for her size 6 feet in the middle of London from an Australian shoe company?
My sister and I said in silence. Finally she said. “I have no words to describe how dumb some people can be”. She said a lot more but I couldn’t possible repeat it here. But she got me thinking. What’s life like for smart people?
What is smart?
The jury for defining ‘smart’ is still out and I am not going to join the ranks in attempting to define it here. But it is safe to say, smart is what smart does. It isn’t so much how smart you are… it’s more about how you do smart. There are loads of people that are super intelligent on paper but have no common sense. As Einstein put it “common sense is not common”. Smart people use their brains so that they can use their brains. Their brain is their weapon. The more they use their brains the more they need to use their brains because their brains gets restless and is easily bored easily. For smart people… their hobby is learning stuff….finding out how things work…acquiring knowledge. Sometimes just for the sake of it.
A smart person knows how to think. Which means they look at facts, data and concepts. They don’t want to memorise and regurgitate other people’s thinking. Non smart people are fond of doing that. Smart people want to understand a subject…apply it…analyse…process it… evaluate and create something cool from it.
Conditions for being smart
Smart people have incredible high standards and they never let themselves of the hook. Mainly because their job is never done. The more they learn, the more they want to learn, the more they have to learn. Every enquiry takes them to another level of enquiry and so it goes on. So they never feel they have all the information. This gives smart people a feeling of not being smart when actually they are smart.
In a classic study conducted by Kruger and Dunning at Cornell university. They found that lesser smart students over estimated their exam results and smart students underestimated their exam results. The authors concluded that the lesser smart students were more optimistic about their abilities in the exam because they were not smart enough to realise that they had made mistakes. Giving rise to the saying ‘ignorance is bliss’ Smart people on the other hand know their limitations. The smarter you are the more you realise that there is a lot of stuff you don’t know.
Smart people do not care where the information comes from. Knowledge is knowledge. They are at home with quantum physics… nature…or the galaxy. It’s all knowledge through different windows. They are comfortable talking on a wide number of topics.
Smart people are happy to say they don’t know something. This gives them the opportunity to find more stuff out. They can lose a whole weekend studying random things. Non smart people know everything. They cannot be told. Yet they can get really offended when smart people suggest different ways of doing things.
The curse of being smart
-Smart people are prone to a condition called ‘existential depression’. (Yalom 1980) They have real concerns about issues that non smart people do not seem to care about. These are issues to do with life…death…freedom. Questions such as ‘why are we here’…and ‘what is the meaning of life’. Non smart people find this line of enquiry too deep. Smart people get really frustrated with the big questions because they are smart and while they can figured most things out…they can’t figure out these questions to their satisfaction. This can lead to melancholia and even depression. Smart people ask themselves. ‘What is the point of all of all of this?’…or ‘why am I working for this dipstick?’ or ‘did I come to this planet to get stuck in traffic and die?’
-People don’t understand smart people. Smartness makes them jealous…nervous… embarrassed and feel stupid. Non smart people don’t like it mostly because they think that smart people have live easy and are show offs. Meet Chris Langon. This guy lives on a remote farm in America and features in Malcolm Gladwell’s book “The Outliers”. He has been tested many times and is reported to have the highest IQ in the world. His IQ is 200. The average person’s IQ is about 100. He recounts that when he was at school he got beaten up mercilessly for being smart so much so that he dropped out of school and society and now lives in the middle of nowhere.
Smart kids get bullied, teased and ridiculed. Even by the teachers it seems who are intimated by smartness in children. It gives rise to the saying “No one loves a smartass” So smart people invariably have to dump down or bite their tongues.
What smart people have to deal with…
-Smart people have to deal with stupid people who think they are smart on a daily basis.
-Smart people have to stand by and fain interested when people go on about things they don’t know very much about. These are the people who obtain their knowledge from social media and then preach it like it is the gospel.
-Smart people have to listen to people who cannot explain themselves and whose vocabulary runs from ‘do you know what I mean’ to “basically’. Smart people have a wide vocabulary and they seldom have verbal tics like lesser smart people seem to have. They have a wide vocabulary because they read!
Less smart people feel inferior around smart people. Some try to take them on to prove that they are not so smart. Or they dismiss the smart person by calling them a ‘nerd’ or a ‘geek’.
I could finish this post by pretending to be smart by quoting Nietzsche or Foucault but I’ll end with my own quote…
“It is better to be a ‘geek’ than a ‘twat’ any day of the week!”