Intelligence (September 10)


“Intelligence is quickness in seeing things as they are” (George Santayana).

CONTRARY TO WHAT MANY PEOPLE THINK, INTELLIGENCE IS NOT THE EXCLUSIVE PROPERTY OF PEOPLE WITH A HIGH “IQ.” At best, the so-called “IQ tests” measure only one or two kinds of intelligence, and it would do us good to see intelligence as a quality that all of us can enjoy, in one way or another. As Santayana put it, “Intelligence is quickness in seeing things as they are.” To grow in intelligence means that we learn how to separate fact from fiction and how to aspire to excellence in our activities, no matter what those activities may be. Each of us has a unique intelligence that can flourish.

It’s a good thing that educational experts are coming to realize that there are many more kinds of intelligence than we used to recognize. Just because a person is not particularly adept at processing certain kinds of mathematical or verbal data does not mean that they lack intelligence. It usually only means that their intelligence lies in other areas. What each of us needs to do is identify our personal intelligences, aptitudes, etc. and develop these to their fullest extent.

But no matter what kind of intelligence we may possess, it’s important to recognize that intelligence alone is not enough. The critical question is what we do with our intelligence once we’ve developed it.

As far as the practical living of life is concerned, educator John Holt made a perceptive comment: “The test of intelligence [is] not how much we know how to do, but how we behave when we don’t know what to do. Similarly, any situation, any activity, that puts before us real problems, that we have to solve for ourselves, problems for which there are no answers in any book, sharpens our intelligence.” Intelligence is given to us as a tool with which to solve problems, and that’s exactly what we need to do with it, for the betterment of others.

If we could be known for only one thing, few of us would want to be known for intellectual ability. But each of us has a mind, and truly, a mind is a terrible thing to waste. Rather than waste it, we ought to expand it gratefully. “A good mind possesses a kingdom” (Seneca).

“Of work comes knowledge, of knowledge comes fruitful work; of the union of knowledge and work comes the development of intelligence” (Vinoba Bhave).

Gary Henry –