What is Intelligence?

What is Intelligence?

 

Of late, I have been completely consumed with the idea of intelligence leading me down the murky path of curious discovery. Always an above average student, one would believe I had a handle on this concept. On the contrary, bouts of low self-esteem and social anxiety left me afraid to take risks, challenge others in debate or share personal philosophies. It has only been through writing that I have discovered hidden strength and allowed parts of myself to be seen. To this point one of my favorite authors, Parker Palmer, states,

 

As teenagers and young adults, we learned that self-knowledge counts for little on the road to workplace success. What counts is the “objective” knowledge that empowers us to manipulate the world. Ethics, taught in this context, becomes one more arm’s-length study of great thinkers and their thoughts, one more exercise in data collection that fails to inform our hearts.

 

What speaks to me is Palmers use of the word manipulate. We often choose to show up each day as society expects us to and with the information required for each interaction. In my field we call this data driven decision making. In doing so we hide our authentic self and shield our hearts while navigating a professional life. We gladly put on errs and dish out facts and figures to support positions, forgetting the points we argue remain eternally elusive. Intelligence of the heart gently reminds, it is better to be kind than to be right. Parker speaks further with,

 

Not knowing who or what we are dealing with and feeling unsafe, we hunker down in a psychological foxhole and withhold the investment of our energy, commitment, and gifts… The perceived incongruity of inner and outer-the inauthenticity that we sense in others, or they in us-constantly undermines our morale, our relationships, and our capacity for good work.

 

I have felt this inauthenticity in both myself and those in my workplace. If I am not showing up as myself, trying my hardest to be as others wish me to be, am I not doing a disservice to everyone? If I had to define true knowledge, I would have to say universal intelligence fits the bill. It is a knowing that no matter how much we think we know, it is never as vast as the great unknown. The divine light in each of us, no matter how we name it, holds this universal knowledge and tries desperately to show us the smallest of sparks during our lifetime.

 

What we name it matters little to me, since the origins, nature, and destiny of call-it-what-you-will are forever hidden from us, and no one can credibly claim to know its true name. But that we name it matters a great deal. For “it” is the objective, ontological reality of selfhood that keeps us from reducing ourselves, or each other, to biological mechanisms, psychological projections, sociological constructs, or raw material to be manufactured into whatever society needs — diminishments of our humanity that constantly threaten the quality of our lives.

 

My writing is a playground for self-examination, self-reflection and philosophical interplay. I debate with myself as I write and the outcome is never predestined. I flirt with new ideas and old tales of wisdom, never really settling into one frame but rather enjoying the entire picture, even the odd brushstrokes and frayed edges. The universe is such a creative space and the joy I feel when floating in this galactic sea of creativity is unmatched by any measure of intelligence we know of.

 

I have no name for this other but know it is with me and is relentless in providing learning opportunities for my soul. Sometimes I fail miserably while other times I shine brightly, soaking in the love of a perceived success. It is only with this duality that we learn, grow and come home to ourselves. The journey can be frustrating, but maybe this is the only way to truly earn our intelligence wings.

 

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