How To Think About Intelligence Intelligently

CBS (Youtube)
CBS (Youtube)

I joined MENSA the other day, mainly because I was running out of ways to be an asshole. Having a card that I can stick in people’s faces when they ask why I think I’m so smart has opened up a whole new world of opportunity.

To qualify for membership, you have to score above the 98th percentile on a supervised IQ test. If that sounds like a big deal, it’s because you’re not smart enough to see that it’s equivalent to one in every fifty people. When you consider that the sampled population includes government workers, people in comas, and Bill Maher, it’s even less impressive.

Nevertheless, as a certified smart person, I feel it is my duty to explain to the rest of you what intelligence is and ain’t.

1. It ain’t all that.

Intelligence is something you’re born with. It’s a genetically endowed privilege you did nothing to earn or otherwise merit — you might as well brag about being tall or having big boobs. Taking pride in how smart you are is one of the dumbest things you can do, and by the same logic, putting someone down because they’re stupid is essentially the same as denouncing an individual for the color of their skin.

2. It ain’t nothing to whine about neither.

Every once in a while you’ll come across someone who pisses and moans about how being intelligent has made their life more difficult, usually because society has failed to pay sufficient homage to their genius. That person is an idiot.

Being smart isn’t tough. It’s easy because you can literally do whatever you put your mind to, and that includes mastering social skills. Seriously, if your brilliance is so glaring that it annoys or intimidates everyone around you, how come you can’t figure out how to:

  1. turn it down a little,
  2. make new friends, or
  3. stop giving a shit?

3. It ain’t what it isn’t.

Egalitarians would have the definition of intelligence broadened to include alternatives such as musical, emotional, and athletic intelligence. That’s kind of like saying that a girl who has a great ass, low inhibitions and a fondness for Dom Perignon is demonstrating a very high level of stripper intelligence.

Talents and aptitudes can be enhanced by intelligence (a smarter hockey player will usually score more goals than another with the same dedication and physical ability). They’re also analogous in many ways, but they aren’t the same thing.

Intelligence is the raw brain power and ability to reason that you can apply to whatever area of your life you choose. I’ve always hated music, for example, because it gets in the way when I’m trying to talk about myself, but when I was offered money to write a bunch of songs, I sat down, figured it out and now I have two successful albums and a show that’s toured the world.

4. It ain’t gonna change.

In theory, you might be able to boost your IQ by doing brain exercises, guzzling iodine and Omega-3s, or hanging upside-down like a bat, but we’re talking about a couple of points at most.

On the other hand, I’ve boxed since I was a kid, had my head kicked into a coma in a street fight, and spent most of my teens and early twenties waging chemical warfare on my own brain. I guess I could have dumped a few IQ points along the way, but if I was really smarter back then, why’d I do so much stupid shit?

5. It ain’t that important.

I was reading at a college level when I was six years old. By the time I dropped out of high school at 15, I was in remedial math and English, and I’m sure most of my teachers thought I was retarded.

A kid I went to school with was about as sharp as a rubber sword, but he always sought out the toughest classes and teachers he could find, the ones I did my best to avoid. When I was getting high in the park, he was in college, where he once failed an intensive history course, re-registered, failed again, then signed up a third time and passed, probably because the teacher was fed up of looking at his drooling, slack-jawed face. I don’t know what that stubborn little motherfucker is doing with his life, but I’m pretty sure he doesn’t spend his days googling midget porn and writing articles for dumbass websites.

The point is, we spend far too much time worrying about how smart we are. As a society, we devote vast amounts of money, time, and energy to measuring, comparing and trying to boost the intelligence of various groups and individuals. Our resources would be much better spent teaching people the importance of character, common sense, and a strong work ethic. When all is said and done, good values and the right mindset will take you a lot further than a headful of smarts ever will.

Of course, that’s easy for me to say because I’m, you know, a member of MENSA.Thought Catalog Logo Mark

This post originally appeared on STREET CARNAGE

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