When It’s Too Late to Matter, Tell Me How Smart I Am

Reclining carelessly in my armchair, last night–draped with the afghan I helped Mom make when I was a child–I recalled the time when a friend asked me if I knew my I.Q. score. I didn’t. Then she asked whether I’d ever want to know.

Several scholarly studies I no longer remember so well stated that most people believe their intelligence rates above-average. I just searched for such an article, in case you’d dare to doubt my authority, but, as usual, I was sidetracked by something less weighty. I clicked a link to a forum called “Do you believe that most people are of average intelligence?” Unfortunately, no respondents replied with anything so simple as “Yes, since that’s what ‘average’ means.” What a letdown. The question answers itself, and that’s before mentioning the statistical impossibility that the answer could be longer than ‘no.’ The real question is, stated more simply, “Do you believe most people are smarter than most people?”

Most people do believe they’re smarter than most people. They, who don’t say so–for fear that they’re stuck in the middle of the bell curve– say “Well, it depends on how you define intelligence. It’s not always the same as what the tests measure.” Well, whatever its definition, or whatever the official tests measure, most people are average at ‘it.’

If being smart depends on much I know, then I am sure not in the favorable category of outliers. I know things but not that many, if anyone’s counting. Most of what I know is common knowledge that I’ve heard so often, I take for granted that how someone long ago decided it’s a fact. For example, I know that Shakespeare is considered history’s greatest playwright, though I’d die in 2.2 seconds if my life depended on having to explain why that’s true, except that each of my English and literature teachers said so–oddly enough, they said little about the other playwrights in contention. I’d rather memorize the “F” section of a dictionary than read Shakespeare’s complete works. That’s a personal preference–though, to Stratford Shakespeare Festivalists, that statement is either pure heresy or literary ignorance (I can live with both). I’d take such common knowledge for granted to an ever greater degree if I liked it, supplanting my personal reasons for liking it as objective reasons for why everyone should agree that it’s great.

If I were that concerned about it, I know a few well-informed English graduates who are fluent in Shakespearean English, until they find my churlishness about convention wisdom off-putting (don’t feel bad, though; Ive been to Stratford-upon-Avon).

That’s why what I lack in knowledge, I overcompensate for with resourcefulness, knowing where to find answers rather than memorizing them like game show trivia (and I like game show trivia). Experience may be the best teacher, but whomever first said that didn’t specify whose experience counts. I’m happy to use my own, but I’m fine to use another person’s. Being so efficient allows me to ponder and learn other things which no one will ever ask me (I’ve noticed I’m rarely used as anyone’s source of information. What, I don’t know fun things?).

To me, my I.Q. score doesn’t matter, yet. I’d rather learn it after I’m finished doing all that I’m going to do before I call it a life, and make a habit of falling asleep in lawn chairs on exotic beaches when I’m too old to stay awake all day. That way, my feelings about it will fall into one of only three categories:

    • If I’ve done a lot in life, and I find out my I.Q. is high, I’ll think “Well, no wonder.”
    • If I’ve done very little with my life, and my I.Q. is low, I’ll think “Well, that’s comforting.”
    • If I’ve done a lot in life, and my I.Q. is low, then I’ll think “Well, apparently, I.Q. doesn’t really matter.”

Just like that.


10 Responses to “When It’s Too Late to Matter, Tell Me How Smart I Am”
  1. Interesting read. I think I’ll be in the second category.

    I guess our evaluation of Shakespeare comes from its perennial place on the summit of world literature.

  2. Rachel says:

    Intelligence doesn’t matter nearly as much as what you do with it! I like this entry, mister. It reminds me to get started on my thesis…the minute I get off YouTube. 😉

  3. Gnetch says:

    I agree with Rachel! It doesn’t matter how high a person’s I.Q. is if they are not even using it correctly.

    Dude. You’re deep! 🙂


  4. S. Am says:

    You can be an expert at some things, not everything.
    Btw, 2.2 seconds, again. Not surprising.

  5. Sams Peeps says:

    I don’t know how much IQ really means, anyway. I mean, I knew a guy who was – as far as IQ scores go – a genius… and he’s spent about 1/4 of his life in jail for doing stupid things. So, how smart is he, really?

    And my score definitely doesn’t reflect my intellect (I think it should be lower, actually).

    I don’t think an IQ score means much of anything.

    I’m really enjoying your posts over here!

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