Got an insightful (and significantly long) comment on a recent post, and as it was not particularly related to the specific post, but to this blog as a whole, I thought I would elevate it to a post in and of itself, with some commentary along the way. So here goes:
On October 23, “Bubba” wrote:
I read your entire site post by post tonight. That alone suggests some insight into me, however I’ve had only one suicidal moment in my life and it was brief (coming closely after a divorce and on the heels of the depression that accompanies it) but the plight of the “gifted mind” or “genius” is right up my alley as well as the loneliness that comes along with it. The irony is that historically speaking to groups of so called “intelligent” people has only left me feeling FAR WORSE after coming into contact with them because I don’t have the same hang-ups they do (which is not to say more/less, only different!!!) I felt the same way reading the posts here!
My general response to a “Hello” comment is “Welcome”. Small point of confusion though: reading this blog made you feel worse about… what? Yourself? Or just kind of puts you in a crummy mood?
There were so many places where I was VERY CLOSE to you and to the two other major contributors in experiencing the described (and therefore perceived second hand and open to projection which dilutes the accuracy, but alas what else do we have at hand?) experiences. I HATE categories and the restrictions they impose but, to join in I’ll offer this personal information:
There isn’t exactly a qualification test to post here. No need to prove yourself to me; your words will speak for themselves. It is however nice to have a bit of perspective about a person, so by all means I like hearing a bit about people who stop by.
1. Very High IQ
2. Victim of a violent crime (a young man stabbed me with the intent to kill as an initiation into a gang which ads a second level of callousness as it wasn’t personal and therefore didn’t allow my mind the smallest amount of “cause/effect” rationality that one might have if they knew their attacker)
Um… Holy Shit! Wow. Sliding off topic for a moment — one of the things that became a bit of a “guilt trip” for me in the wake of what happened in college is that there are so many worse things that could have happened to me, was I overreacting? “Oh no, somebody had sex with you— the horror!” And of course it was a horror for me, emotionally. I was raped, and that is simultaneously a violent crime and… not all that violent. In the end it is what it is. We live with the lives we’ve had, and go on from there.
Still. Holy Shit.
3. An OVERWHELMING feeling of peerlessness (here I would define peer as “like-minded” not “equal”)
An excellent distinction. Oftentimes I think the core of high IQ is the ability to make fine, yet accurate (and thus useful) distinctions. As you may have noticed, your particular idea has been batted around a bit around here. Nonetheless you phrase it very well, and succinctly.
I’ll stop here though I might be able to stretch a few more similarities but I would hope that this allows me to be a “part of the group” without further need to validate my “right” to respond here and be taken seriously.
That being said I offer a few suggestions right off the bat:
1. Stop using the term “intelligent” or “smart” in correlation to IQ scores. One (the IQ Score) is a specific measurement of something (of a particular moment in a person’s life – the day/hour/minutes they took the test AND the bias of the test itself – but I digress) and the other is a value judgment that is FAR TOO WIDE a statement to be used in conjunction with the IQ score. The difference between these two factors might be the underlying problem you are having when using these terms in the company of others who are not into the whole “IQ culture.” Now before you break out the dictionary and define “intelligent” or “smart” remember (and this is the part you are forgetting) that the objective of communication is the accurate transfer of data from one mind to another, and therefore their biases about the words or the stigmas attached are VALID POINTS and worth considering. One can argue all day about whether “Nigger” is just a derivation of “niger” which means “black” in Latin, but when you say it to someone who might be offended by it it brings along with it the power of the emotional response along with the purely cerebral intention.
I agree with this and I don’t. The problem is that you can’t dump all the responsibility on one party or the other. There are far too many people out there who are primed to be offended by every goddamned things that crosses their paths— whether it’s legitimate or not. I remember the story about the guy (a reporter or commentator I think) who lost his entire career because he— accurately mind you— used the word “niggardly”. No connection to “nigger”, but some black group or another raised a stink over the “offensive” word.
So… yes, people DO this kind of thing, and it is important to acknowledge that it exists in the real world; but I draw the line well before the argument that it’s up to me to constantly walk on eggshells so as not to offend idiots.
That being said, I have talked about the use of “smart” and “intelligent”; you are correct that it’s a mistake to use those terms carelessly. Even if you are talking purely in terms of IQ, the average human being is pretty smart, even if a genius is smarter.
Ironically, it is this disconnect between “seeing things through the eyes of others” that so many so called “normal people” find annoying when dealing with the so called “gifted.” Because it’s obvious to them, and they can’t understand why you don’t see it as obviously as they do (sound familiar?)
You remind me of a book that came out years ago called The Bell Curve. It was basically about the nature of human intelligence, but included some statistics about various groups, and created a political uproar because of some of the statistics relating to people of different races. In the wake of that a number of people were arguing that “IQ isn’t really that important”, and tried to push the idea of “EQ”— a mis-acronym for “Emotional Intelligence”.
It’s a legitimate point to make, in a way, however…
This alone should destroy any idea of so called “intellectual superiority” and bring you to my second point:
2. There is no such thing as intellectual superiority.
False statement. I do not accept this premise. The fact that there are differences in intelligence does not indicate that no legitimate measure of intelligence can be had.
There are Olympic marathon runners and Olympic sprinters. They have different strengths, but either one of them would kick my butt if I tried running against them.
Every human brain has compartments and strengths and weaknesses created by genetic predisposition and environmental stimulus/response. Those who spend a lot of time on the “fringe of groups leaning on the wall” are probably NOT stimulating the same parts of the brain that the party participant is. In short, while you are standing on the wall contemplating a physics problem they are stimulating parts of the brain that allowed them the empathy enough to not call themselves “smart” or “intelligent” in mixed company (Yes I know you don’t do that in real life and you allow yourself this space to do it in anonymity, but PLEASE follow along as it’s not said as an attack I promise!!!!) You see the time spent in the company of other “normals” made them more adapt at empathizing with other “normals” and your time spent away from them weakened your mind’s ability to do the same… One could argue that you have a weaker mind than they have based on this alone…
Well… most everyone has a decent capability to relate to people who are like themselves. The genius’s inability to relate to the “normal” person is no more or less a failing than the “normal” person’s inability to relate to the genius. I may have trouble empathizing with “normals”, but I’m probably much better empathizing with other people more like myself than they are. It’s just that there are more of them than there are of us. (And yes, for this topic I am consciously overlooking the falseness of the hard us/them dichotomy for the sake of simplicity.)
And the spiral would continue out of control… Which brings me to:
3. In-group/out-group dynamics. This is a very simple psychological/sociological concept but it’s a powerful one and makes sense from a survival mechanism point of view. It’s one of the FIRST parts of threat recognition in the brain, and therefore plays a LARGE part in how someone initially reacts to you. Out-group (someone outside of your identified group) is a high possible threat while In-group is lower. I apologize for the simplistic description but I feel compelled to make certain that I’m communicating as accurately as possible. The problem (as I see it) is that all the things mentioned by you folks (the faster “problem solving” capabilities, the more cerebral needs for entertainment [e.g. – solving “who-dunnits” rather than watching them unfold, etc.] and on and on when it comes to the outwardly obvious behaviors that so called “normals” recognize as different and therefore out-group behaviors) have with them the standard human response of “potentially dangerous” and it takes a self-aware person to then disregard the danger and look closer when it’s far easier to just move onto someone else at the party who it is more comfortable to be around…
And again, we’ve touched on this elsewhere on this site, but I must say you have a real knack for getting to the heart of issues. This is a solid distinction, and a very, very good way of looking at many of the issues discussed on this site. Good stuff here.
4. The solution to this is however unjust and therefore distasteful. YOU must work at being perceived as less of an “out-group” if you wish this reaction to lessen. IF as you acknowledge you are in the 1% of human brains and feel lonely it would seem an obvious solution to find a way to “get along” with the 99% as a remedy, would it not? I found humor to be the best way around this as do many people in this situation, how you solve it is up to you, BUT isolating yourself from so called “normals” is going to be a perpetually lonely business
Most people I know think I have a pretty good sense of humor… sometimes. Most people find me to be a very friendly person, in fact. I generally like people. The problem is that the connection I have to most people is extremely superficial. Lots and lots of acquaintances, and very few friends.
What you describe seems essentially superficial. I can “dumb myself down” to get along with people, but that does nothing to salve the real isolation that exists underneath the veneer.
AND it forgets one HUGE factor:
YOU AND THE “NORMALS” ACTUALLY SHARE 99% INTERESTS, LIKES, AND FEELINGS!!
I don’t drink or do drugs myself
Seems to be common among visitors to this site. Is it common among high IQs? I’ve actually never been intoxicated.
“An intelligent man is sometimes forced to be drunk to spend time with his fools. “
– Ernest Hemingway
Certainly implies that Ernest found some solace among the so called “fools.”
I offer this to you as an attempt to reach out to you using my personal experience, NOT as a lecture!!!!!!!!!! I hope it hits you in that way. Also, feel free to disagree anywhere you see flaws I love to learn from others!
Bubba — it was a great bit of writing, and it carries some real insight. At first blush though I think it illustrates things I’m already aware of rather than offering real solutions. I’ll give it a good re-read and see if there’s more to draw from it. Thanks for this, either way, and please stick around.