Who is the most intelligent person ?
I have asked this question a number of times in my life. At different stages of my childhood years and later as I grew up. I have seen my answer mould and take different shapes. I am sharing an answer today.
When I started school, I was introduced to the world of rankings. Amidst the speed and haste of curriculums, syllabus, structures and sports, I was often told to be like the most studious student, like the one who secured the highest marks. This student knew all the answers from all the text-books. She had the best hand writing as well. And it was very usual for the teachers to show the entire class, how everyone should conform to her cursive handwriting. Numerous instances of idealising a perfection that everyone believed in and I adhered to a unified view of how intelligence was perceived. I thought, to be able to retain, memorise and produce the results in an exam is the most loved skill, and a trait of brilliance .
This understanding continued until the middle school where, I met many students who represented and headed groups of students. These kinds of students were the representatives of a group. I always thought that there is something special about being a leader. I admired the authority of a class representative. This student was an administrator and had great interpersonal skills. He/She was a controller, a guide and teacher’s go-to person .This person knew how to communicate and put forward his commands to all kinds of students. Moreover, this student wasn’t usually among the secluded top ranker elites and could mingle with everyone. I related much closely to them. Leadership was intelligence, I thought.
Life moved ahead I got massively interested in sports . I followed the glam and glory of the superstars. I started thinking that, to be able to represent your country in a sport is a mark of brilliance. These sports persons had millions of followers. Sports makes you take crucial decisions in milliseconds. People who do it superbly well and consistently, were the most intelligent ones, I believed.
I entered my high school years and filled my teens with different genres of music. I would see videos of guitarists play the coolest tunes and started appreciating the ability to recognise, produce and reflect on music . My favourites were the composers, artists, musicians and stage performers and I started following blogs about timbre, pitch ,tones and rhythms. I believed that there is something distinctive about this ability to create music which populates a frenzy that influences people’s interest and time. Something about live music that made these musicians apart. Distinguishing and offbeat, music connected more with intelligence, than anything else. This was the time, when painters and artists and people with creative endeavours were my favourites. They still amaze me. I have noticed so many imaginations turning into inspirations, curiosity exuding with novelty and love.
I also began to admire people who were inventors and discoverers. Scientists and researchers who invented things we use and study, like the two bicycle owners who set out to invent airplanes. People who introduced us to laws of nature and many others, whose interest was not money, but to create and build things and to take humanity to the next level. I thought, these people were the most brilliant, of all .
Internet was in, and I closely followed the upsurge. The days when mails, chats, search and social networking started becoming popular and the way it affected lives of people at scale. I started regarding somebody with computing skills as the most intelligent. This involved numbers, recognising patterns and relationships, and the ability to solve different kinds of problems through logic .
I joined college, met distinctive set of people. Met few drop-outs and people who found their own path and those who created their career, out of pure passion and interest. Following your interests and standing up for what you believe and love, is a special intellectual ability, that separates intelligent ones. I, still believe this.
I started becoming fascinated towards entrepreneurship, reading about people who built businesses, through adversity and hardship and started regarding problem solvers more than people who just pursued their passions and earned money. Intelligence should have an impact, I thought.
Impact had a new interpretation. I saw some great orators and read about great eloquent speeches, creating revolutions. How wonderful is the ability to manoeuvre a mass with your speech! I believed that persuasive oratory is a special form of intelligence that can influence perspectives. Something distinctive, superior and unique.
And then there was a time, I thought people who went to top universities were the most intelligent ones. I came to one of such universities and met more of these people. There were many smart ones. But, I met many others without a top-notch degree, like self-taught programmers and intellectual tinkerers across the world who create things out of fun and make beautiful ripples. The fact that the competitive admission requirements, favours score cards and standardised tests, makes it customary for the graduates to be driven and smart and thus top universities do not directly imply intelligence, I realised !
There are people, who can understand people well. To be able to feel for others, empathize and relate is a wonderful ability. Specially, in a world, that is embracing virtual realities. kindness and connection exceeds reasoning and logic, every time. I see this, as intelligence too.
Technology and the promise of Artificial Intelligence: The world is increasingly becoming complex and we are constantly throwing problems for machines to solve. We don’t know how things work. We are occupied with abstractions. Famously known for his inventions, Thomas Edison once said, “The three great essentials to achieve anything worthwhile are: hard work, stick-to-itiveness, and common sense.” I believe that people who can deal with the minutia of daily lives, can bring their problems to the basics, are intelligent. An increasing level of relative IQ brings with it, a tendency differentially to overuse general intelligence in problem-solving, and to over-ride those instinctive and spontaneous forms of evolved behaviour, which could be termed as common sense and surprisingly, it’s very rare today. Today ,common sense is intelligence too.
Spirituality made me realise that there is much more to life than what we talk and hear about. I thought, the person who understands this, is the most intelligent person .Somebody, who sees, feels and observes things beyond the whirls and noises of life and doesn’t get carried away is the smartest.
And then, I met a comedian.
I saw the manoeuvre, communication and the exceptional craft.
I realised that, this person brings life to the present moment. Taking us from thinking-self to experiencing-self. Upon observing closely, I got amused by the effort, timing and the precision that brings movement. A movement so natural, that it hides all the tragedies of life. Adapting to changing circumstances, being able to accept new people and ideas, not sticking rigidly to old position and making people laugh is a beautiful skill.
After All , we were born to laugh.That’s why, it’s so easy for a child to smile all day. As we grow up, we tend to become insensitive towards peculiarities of life. We are caught up with our own chores and thoughts.
A presence of a humorous person around, brings back our true nature to us. Humor helps people deal with mental pain and physical adversity. It’s a blessing for our health. It breaks the barriers, transcends beliefs and notions and helps us enrich our existence. Humor illuminates us. Not in a promise of a future or a knowledge of past. But, in our presence, our being.
And a person, with this artistry is a storyteller. A psychological genius, who instinctively knows you, plays with your equilibrium and presents you with a moment you need and deserve. This is certainly, a cachet of intelligence.
“Humor is perhaps a sense of intellectual perspective: an awareness that some things are really important, others not; and that the two kinds are most oddly jumbled in everyday affairs.” — Christopher Morley
Most definitions of intelligence still hold true to me and I’d like to recognize more forms. I may draw to close, differently in future. But today, I think that the most intelligent person in the room is the most humorous person.