I have grown up around smart people. You know – the kind of people that can pick and choose what to do with their lives, because they’re so talented. I’m here to tell you: some smart people are wise, some aren’t. I’m saying this because of someone’s comment on Facebook. I had put up a Bill Gates quote:
Success is a lousy teacher. It seduces smart people into thinking they can’t lose.
Jiddu Krishnamurti too felt that intelligence was another word for wisdom. But with intelligence tests all around – the simplest definition of intelligence is the cynical one: intelligence is that which an intelligence test measures.
Of course these days there all kinds of intelligence tested. There’s emotional intelligence, verbal linguistic intelligence, intra-personal intelligence etc. Generally I think it’s reasonable to call a person smart if they score well on several of these tests. Still, wisdom is something else.
Despite all these things I think our culture tends to reward people who have academic intelligence. The kind that is tested by grading papers and math tests. And we tend to think that such intelligence must make one wise. Of course when we think about it, we don’t think that. The proverbial geek is the smart guy in sweats who doesn’t know how to behave around girls. But we still tend to assume that geek will be successful, not get into debt etc. If only that were true.
Like intelligence there are all kinds of wisdom. There’s the wisdom of making right decisions. there’s the wisdom of seeing the follies of people before they become common knowledge (you know – knowing when to sell stock, before they loose half their value on the stock market). And there’s the wisdom to know that however successful you are, you may still make mistakes. There’s the wisdom of knowing how little compliments mean when you’re already successful. There’s the wisdom of knowing your limitations.
I’m telling you all: any of these kinds of wisdom may be possessed by people who get good grades – but if there’s a correlation it’s a weak one. In other words: I know very few people who possess them all – and as I said, I know plenty of talented people.
I’ve often hoped that if I ever become famous, I will still have people around me that will tell me straight when I’m being a fool. I’ll probably not thank them for it, but I know I will need to hear. And I hope I’m wise enough not to send them packing. Because right now I’m not successful enough to forget how easy failure is – and while I do hope to become more successful, I hope to never forget.
I had planned a post about religious psychology or Zen (or both), but this rant just leapt out of my pen.