If You Only Knew How Clever You Are. [Or, Why Looking at You is Like Staring into the Sun.]

“If you only knew how clever you are!” I said to my daughter, as she lamented her inability to pass her times-tables weekly test.

If you only knew, that the difference of intelligence between the smartest, most precocious Year 6 kid in your school, or even the smartest teacher in your school, and the “least capable”, least advanced, “slowest” learner in the nursery class… if you only knew that that whole difference between them, is like just one drop of water in an ocean.

One small drop in the vast, unfathomed ocean of the basic innate intelligence we are all born with as human beings.

I would even say, the difference between the biggest dunderhead that ever lived, and Einstein or Marie Curie or Bach, these imposing genius figures of history, is really only a tiny fraction of an enormous whole, like a grain of sand compared to a whole planet, when compared to the innate intelligence the dunderhead character possesses.

Really.

No matter how incredibly idiotic and slow-witted you think you are, or you believe somebody else to be, you, or that person, are millions of times more intelligent than the most intelligent robot that has yet been built by the most brilliant minds working in robotics.

Seriously. Without a shadow of a doubt. Not even close.

I’ll go further and say that even Harry, our pet hamster, is many millions of times more intelligent than any robot ever made. And I have no idea what goes on in his mind – I am just looking at what his body and his instincts allow him to do so effortlessly, and without having been taught.

So, don’t put yourself down. And please, don’t worry that your “relative” lack of agility in learning, or ability to retain information, when you compare yourself to other people in your class, is going to mean that you can’t really achieve very much.

Really, I can’t emphasise enough how untrue it is.

I know, we hear this so much at school, and from well-meaning adults (present company included, I do apologise) who wish us to apply ourselves in the pursuit of exam success.

You are – as we all are – just my virtue of being a living mammal, let alone a social mammal, a primate, a human, a Homo Sapiens Sapiens in the 21st Century – you are an absolutely incredible achievement of nature. You are an absolutely astonishingly intelligent living being – and you would still be so, even if you had never learnt to speak, or walk, or play games or music, let alone all the facts and methods and interactive skills you have  already learnt at school and elsewhere.

As the great pedagogic genius Dr Shin’ichi Suzuki often exclaimed with delight to his bemused friends, “All Japanese children speak Japanese, isn’t that just amazing?”

Yes, it is. The fact that some other person speaks two, or three, or even eleven languages, does not in any way diminish the absolutely remarkable*, mind-blowing achievement of your having learnt one language – the language we are communicating with right now. (*It did take an absolute genius to bother to remark upon it. That’s the nature of genius.)

We do not notice the vast part of our intelligence. The relative sizes of recognised vs unrecognised intelligence are not so much like the tip of the iceberg being 10% of the whole; more like thinking the Earth and its atmosphere are all there is to Space, compared to the immensely vast expanse of the universe we watch in the night sky. Your intelligence – our intelligence – is enormously broad, deep and complex.

We can take no credit for it, of course. And there’s not even much sense in being grateful for it… it just is what it is. But let’s not diminish what it is.

Because really, that’s the true lack of intelligence – when we compare two children in the same school class, for example, and declare one to be “bright” and the other “dull”. This, to me, is the real lack of intelligence we confront today – this comparing of brilliant beings that diminishes us all. So where exactly are we going wrong with it, in my opinion?

It is as if we were to compare the brightness of a distant star with our Sun, and declare, based on our (correct) observation that the light of our Sun outshines all the other stars during the daytime, that the Sun “is brighter” than that other star. Some stars have luminosities of 100,000 times that of the sun. A star’s “apparent brightness”, however, depends on distance. We can easily see, can’t we, that we are making the wrong inference because of our particular perspective – we are so close to the Sun, relatively, that we cannot judge its brightness correctly.

And so too, when I look at a child, any “average” child, or any person in fact, I feel like I am looking into the Sun. I look at them and I feel their immensely powerful intelligence just pouring out of them.

When I look at you, yes YOU, I feel your radiating intelligence – you burn fiercely, in ways that are immeasurable.

So don’t you DARE call yourself, or anyone else, unintelligent. Even a person – it may be you, it may be me – who experiences very profound learning difficulties compared to some other people, somebody who really struggles with various disorders or unusual challenges, somebody who at first glance may appear to be severely disabled, unable perhaps to do some things that we consider fairly basic, like seeing, hearing, having sufficient control of their limbs to be able to write with a pencil or catch a ball, or being able to communicate with verbal speech. Such a person, whom we might be inclined to pity or to write off – such a person is no less than a deeply, impressively, intelligent human being. Did you know, for example, that some blind people have taught themselves to echo-locate? Or that some people who don’t use verbal speech invent alternative languages using other means than the lips and tongue? Never, ever, write a person off as incapable, just because their methods are surprising, invisible or unintelligible to you.

So, be as intelligent as you really are, in this way: STOP COMPARING.

Stop comparing yourself to others. Stop comparing others to you. Stop being inordinately impressed by over-achieving historical figures, or by those who succeed within the narrow, artificial parameters of the standardised academic system. Stop believing that it matters whether a person got an A* or an F on their maths GCSE, or passed Grade 8 violin at age 7.

Remember, these variations are but drops in a vast ocean of potential. They mean NOTHING.

Why is this so important, in my view? Because we are wasting our most valuable resource, and we are destroying our most beautiful resource, when we make people feel less capable than they really are because we keep telling them – and telling ourselves – “oh, they are not as clever as that other person, they probably can’t achieve much,” or we say to ourselves, just below our consciousness, “I am not as smart as that other person, so I probably can’t contribute very much.”

NO!

Contribute. Let your light develop and shine. Bring your whole amazing, mind-blowing intelligence to the table. Try to recognise it. Find out more about it. Your mind and your body together form a truly amazing living organism. You are perfectly adapted to your environment, to life on planet Earth, and you are able to adapt further as circumstances change. That is why I say you are intelligent, no matter what grades you got at school.

When you don’t believe in yourself, and you tell yourself not to bother, it is like you are telling the North Star not to bother shining anymore because the Sun is so much brighter than it. That is idiotic. You are too close to judge. You have no distance, no perspective. Any distant star may well be small and relatively dull, but it may have its own planets teeming with intelligent life around it.

Did you know that the atoms in your body have passed through several stars? Or that several billion of them were in all likelihood part of the body-mind that made up Shakespeare – and by extension, similarly with every other “genius” you might have read about? So don’t tell me you are in any way able to judge how intelligent you are. You have no idea. I have no idea either – I just know it’s colossal. It dwarfs the tiny differences between individual persons. It’s not the same ballpark. It’s not even the same city… it’s not even the same galaxy.

Your intelligence is VAST.

So stop underestimating yourself. Don’t set artificial limits on what you think you can contribute.

Now, if you don’t want to contribute, that’s a different thing. I can’t help you there. And I probably don’t want you in my vicinity – although I do know that people can change for the better, and often do. I can’t help you if you don’t want to contribute to the common good in some way – that’s your choice. But if you want to contribute, I can help you to believe in yourself, and to unlock and develop your latent capabilities.

You don’t even have to believe me. Just try to suspend your disbelief, temporarily. If you’ve read this far, you’ve already started rewiring your brain in the right direction.

I certainly don’t want you to follow me. I’m not a leader, a role model or a good example. I’m just a person who was lucky to have people believing in me around me in my life, and plentiful opportunities for self-development. I know what that can do for a person, and I wish to share it with others.

I’m just a person who looks into your eyes and sees the Sun.

I know that you are amazing. Stellar. Oceanic. (If this level of praise makes you feel uncomfortable, don’t worry, it doesn’t actually make you special. I have always seen people this way, even as a child, from my earliest memories. Remember, I think a hamster is incredibly clever too. And don’t even get me started on trees.)

If this is all I can offer to the world, so be it. I give it gladly.  

Shine on, contribute, and be kind.  Px