Maturity. Intelligence.

I've been very busy recently, what with finals and the end of the year and other things on my mind. However, I've managed to work in a good deal of writing as well, so I've been feeling rather satisfied with it all. Recently, there have been two major things on my mind. The first is maturity, and the second is intelligence.

Maturity is something that we seem to assume out of everyone nowadays, but it also seems like very few people actually have it. There have been divisions in my group of friends recently, spurred on partly by the incompatibility of several of our members, and mostly from the amount of drama and passive-aggressive behavior that has been going around. The thing that has really bothered me, however, is that both sides consider themselves the reasonable ones, that neither considers themselves to be guilty of anything. In every case, it is exclusively the fault of the other party.

I would argue that this is rarely true. Certainly, there are times when one party is entirely at fault, and the other is entirely deserving of a bit of scorn and derision to make themselves feel better, but this is very rare in comparison. Most generally, both sides are at fault, and the fight amounts not to a redress of grievances, but an attempt by both sides to make the opponent's issues seem bigger, so as to ignore their own. Even if only one side is at fault, the other side will often be overzealous in their righteousness, creating fault for themselves.

Now, it is of course too much to wish that people would act with perfect maturity in arguments; no one is capable of such a thing. Even then, acting with maturity would generally mean that fights are altogether avoided, as all possible faults would be quickly and effectively dealt with before they become full blown fights. But it only hurts me to realize that people that I know and care about, and deeply respect, are capable of lapses in their maturity levels. I don't wish to claim any moral high ground here, either. I act with surprising immaturity at times as well. But the fact that I am able to recognize this, rather than pretending that there is no problem, is generally superior to the idea of myself going about committing immature actions and not knowing about them.

In light of recent personal development, as well as the problems that I've seen around me, I've tried to act with more maturity. I've been trying to listen to both sides of the argument between my friends, and come to an understanding of the grievances on both sides. I don't have any perfect knowledge of the situation, but perhaps a more clear picture than most of the others. I've also made efforts to apologize to some people that I've hurt in the past. By the time I recently wrote them apologies, I felt that the issues involved were long dead, but I sent them anyway, to try and make something better out of my relationship with people. Just today, as I was packing my things, one person that I had apologized to talked to me for the first time this year. Of course we did not talk for very long, and I did not properly express myself to this person, but the way in which she responded revealed that she respected the decision to apologize, and it was that respect that I am working towards.

I want nothing other than the respect and love of the people. I understand that I may say hurtful things, I may judge quickly, and I may often act without respect in the moment. But I don't intend any of these things, and I am trying to change the way I act. I am trying to be more mature, I'm trying to get people to understand that I am truly a good person, even if I struggle, and even if my methods differ from what everyone expects of a 'good' person. That feeling that I felt this afternoon, that I had done this right, that I had truly earned someone's respect, (or at least some tiny portion of it), made me happier than I've been in quite some time.

The other thing that has been on my mind is intelligence. First, there was the question of what intelligence is, a question that has not had a satisfactory answer provided. Here is what I have divined for myself.

Intelligence is not rote learning; monkeys can do that. Even then, in the case of rote learning intelligence isn't actually very helpful. A more intelligent person in terms of rote learning would be able to memorize faster, but this doesn't guarantee that he would learn any better, and this doesn't mean that he actually needs this speed. For example, let us say that one man can learn the intellectual skills for a single profession, and master them, over the course of his lifetime. Now let's say that a second man could do this same thing over the course of half of a lifetime, and with the other half master a second job. The problem here is, he doesn't need a second job! A certain amount of knowledge is necessary in order to survive, but after that amount is met, then at some point the accumulation of extra knowledge ceases to have any practical purpose, simply because it can't be used. In this problem, the first man is actually more successful, despite the fact that he is less intelligent; he has his life set for him, whereas the second man simply wastes his time and effort out of boredom, and is unlikely to be satisfied at this point.

It is also clear to me that intelligence is not all that society has cracked it up to be. Society has, for some time now, begun to impress upon us the idea that intelligence is the most important attribute of man. First, this importance was foisted on us by the philosophers and learned men, and then the public in general. The problem is, that this isn't true. A man's strength, his willpower, his stamina, his skill with the canvas or the instrument, these are all equally good. However, society has long convinced us that intelligence is superior, and given men of intelligence a disproportionate share in life, because theirs is the 'better' life. Let's be honest. The only reason that we care about our intelligence, is because it is the evolutionary quirk that got us on top of the earth in the first place. We only hail it because it benefits society, not because it actually benefits a man any more than any other attribute of himself he could choose to hone. Intelligence is responsible for our high level of technology in the world today; this amount of technology is superfluous, and we would live much happier lives without it.

It is also clear that there exists a negative strain of intelligence, the intelligibility of being stupid. For example, there are many students I have known in my classes to speak forever about topics which are tangentially related to their basic material. From a literary standpoint, the purpose of intelligence is to divine meaning. But there becomes a point at which this divination of meaning becomes superfluous, simply because certain meanings were not originally intended, or do not carry sufficient evidence to warrant their exploration in the text. These people are doing thing right by the textbook; they are finding meanings when they talk longer. But the fact is that they are still somehow doing it wrong. It is clear, then, that there is an aspect of intelligence which is negative, that is, that it restricts itself and in the process is actually more effective. To give an example, I believe that a man is benefited by a study of philosophy so that he can develop his ideals; however, I also know that spouting my ideals in certain situations will not benefit me, but probably get my ass kicked. This is an example of negative intelligence at work; in knowing when not to be intelligent, I can actually be more intelligent. This negative intelligence is commonly referred to as 'wisdom' or 'street smarts', and it is the type of intelligence that is valued in the east over the positive intelligence in the west. This is why we consider buddhist and taoist monks to be far more intelligent than the ordinary man, despite the fact that they study little and produce little; because they have mastered the art of not knowing moreso than anyone else, they have appeared wise and intelligent to us.

It is also true that among comparable levels of intelligence, a man with an intelligent lifestyle is more valued; in other words, intelligence is not necessarily seen as an attribute in all cases, but a way of living. Of two men who both score similarly on standardized tests, one can be sloppy and inefficient in his personal life, while the other is neat and dedicated to the furtherance of his studies. Both may be equally intelligent, but one is more effective and more respected. I would argue that many of the 'great men' and 'great women' of the past century are not necessarily any greater than other, similarly intelligent people, but that they have simply adopted a lifestyle that is more conducive to intelligence, and thus optimized their intellectual capacities, rather than minimizing it as the lazy intelligent man does.

In the face of these criticisms, I have come to understand for myself that intelligence is not necessarily the end-all of life, unless one is a slave to the construct of society, which is the only thing that truly needs intelligence. Having thrown off this yoke, I now wonder what I've spent my life doing. It is also clear to me that despite the fact that I've dedicated my life for the past few years to learning more and being smarter than everyone else, no one else shares my passion, and no one has any real use for intelligence. The true man of the intellect, that is, the man who has dedicated his intelligence not to picking up a job, but to furthering his intelligence, has few options available to him after study. The most prevalent one is that of the teacher or professor, but I learned for myself, not for others, and I have no will to teach. Where does that leave me? Men of intelligence can always make their way in society, but only by distinguishing themselves, and the available options nowadays are few and far between. I understand that most likely after college I will continue to work in fast food until I can get a book published; I certainly wish that society was more forgiving to the hand that feeds it.

But that is enough for tonight. I must sleep, for tomorrow I must write much more.