onetakemovie: (lidless eye)
[personal profile] onetakemovie
Over on the BW forums there is a fairly recent thread called "Do you ever wish weren't intelligent?" I haven't read it yet, and may not ever get around to reading it, but I'm guessing the missing pronoun between "wish" and "weren't" is "you". And that, along with the recent backlash over Greg Mankiw's comments about sending U.S. jobs overseas being a positive thing and the U.S. population as a whole being too educated for the good of the economy, got me thinking about something I haven't really thought about since I graduated from college twelve years ago.

Where does intelligence get you in life? Is there a point at which others' expectations become so unrealistic as to counterbalance one's potential to the point of undermining it?

People point to Einstein as being an inspiration not just because he was a genius but because he was not recognized as being one early on. Because he "only" received so-so grades in school, they talk as if he possessed some sort of intelligence that is in all of us, and despite nobody encouraging or cultivating it he managed to run with it and develop general relativity, win the Nobel Prize, etc...

Examples like that are few and far between. But it seems like everybody knows somebody of whom they or someone they know says, "(so-and-so) is so smart/has so much potential... if only he/she would apply himself/herself." Maybe it's because they're so commonplace that we instead choose to worship at the altar of the Einsteins of the world.

If this genius is, in fact, inherent in all of us, are we guilty of nudging/kicking/throwing people over the fine line between genius and madness? Are the underachievers among us simply steering clear of that line to avoid crossing it, and if so is it some kind of natural defense mechanism -- avoiding disappointing a society, or a subset of society that might have come to expect more from them than they are aware they can deliver? Wouldn't that make them the truly smart ones?

And really, when you get right down to it, is life nothing more than a great big exercise in managing expectations?
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