We live in a society which prizes, above most things, intelligence. “If you’re smart,” you’ll often hear, “you’ll go places.” Or something to that effect. As a “very intelligent” person myself, I can tell you this is not necessarily true. First and foremost, I want to give my definition of intelligence: the ability to make connections quickly and accurately between new concepts. It has nothing to do with knowledge; anyone can learn anything. But if we can see the connections between things quickly enough, we are “intelligent.” You may not agree with this (after all, that’s what being individuals is all about!), but bear with me.
Having lived most of my life seeing these connections, I can tell you that what ends up happening is I have a lot of things in my head. I become obsessed with seeing the connections. I do it so much that I forget not to think.
I watched a video once of a blacksmith making weapons from media: like Cloud’s sword from Final Fantasy VII or Sting from Lord of the Rings. At one point, he had to use this immense, hyper-powerful, scary-as-fuck spinning grinder thing to buffer a blade. Misquoth he: “If I think about whether I’m going to lose my hand while I’m doing this, I will.” People who self-identify as intelligent, who have this obsession, will use that machine, and die. Because they’re going to see the connection between the spinning leather wheel and their face being pulverised. The guy who made the blade is not traditionally intelligent; he would frequently use bad grammar or whatever. But he’s damn good at his job. He has a specific intelligence that makes him very good planning what he needs to do, but when it comes to doing it, he’s got no hang-ups on thoughts. He is adept at not thinking, which is just as valuable a skill as thinking.
There are other applications for this practice of not thinking, which I’ll call “stupidity” (in order to reassign a term that is destructive and has no redeeming qualities). If you have high stupidity (commonly, “stupid”), you don’t actively think as much as the average person. Your mind might be “going” constantly but it won’t be on what’s going on here and now. Perhaps it’s on other random things that seem inconsequential. But when it comes time to buckle down and focus on something, you won’t have neurons firing trying to connect what you see in front of you with images from your past. You’ll be totally focused.
For example: I meditate. When I do, the main goal is to focus my attention on one thing: my breath, a crystal, the image of a deity. Except as soon as I focus on that thing, a thought pops up connecting it to something else, eg. the previous breath (“it’s a little shorter!”). A stupider person won’t even make that connection, won’t even think about making it. They will already be in a deeper state of meditation. They are “naturally better” at meditation.
(Incidentally, I see a correlation here which would explain a notion that only stupid people turn to religion. Since prayer is meditation, people who respond best to prayer might be those who fit my definition of stupidity. They might also not see the connection between their religion and every single other religion, making them “Religious” rather than simply spiritual. But that’s a whole other topic.)
The good news is that both of these things, “intelligence” and “stupidity” can be learned. It’s all about stepping outside of your comfort zone.
I have been trying, for the last year, to become stupider. I have been learning massage; thoughts during a massage should be quick, pointed, purposeful, and easily “forgotten” (left to fall below conscious thought). I have been meditation more in different ways. I have been listening to music with my heart, not my brain.
I can happily say I am now stupider and more intelligent than I was when I started. I am better at switching between them, in other words.
Like any skill, learning to be stupid requires you to do something scary. Something your brain tells you you don’t want to do. I recently read an article that begs you not to ask the question, “What do I want from life?” but rather, “What pain do I want in life?” I found this super interesting. The reason I don’t want to be a game designer is not because I don’t want to make games. I do. I just don’t want to spend the hours and hours it takes to perfect design skills; to manage a team; to properly communicate my vision to the team; to incorporate good ideas into the design while resisting feature creep; etc. The reason I don’t want to be a professional massage therapist is not because I don’t like massaging people. I do! I just don’t like advertising myself as a massage therapist.
But I love listening to music. So I will spend the hours it takes to learn how to listen to music properly. I also love writing poetry, enough to want to write something, read it over, get over the fact that I think it sucks, analyse what could be better about it, rewrite it, analyse it again, and rewrite it a third time, and post it online to maintain a presence in the eyes of the world. Every day. I love blogging, which means I’m willing to take hours from my week to transform life experiences into a little article, every week, despite all the crazy shit going on in my life right now.
We often tell ourselves we’re not good at something. 98% of the time, this is not true (I don’t know what the 2% is, I’m just leaving myself some margin for error). The fact is that we believe we don’t like to do it, so we don’t try – or if we do, we don’t try hard enough to get to the point where we start liking it. Because it’s scary, painful, or tedious.
Think of something you want to do, but have never done. Think of the first step to take in order to start doing that thing. For example, if you want to climb a mountain in the desert, your first step would be signing up for mountain climbing courses. But that requires: researching on the internet, probably calling someone, getting equipment, setting aside time from our week to do something, and doing the potentially frightening work of climbing up a wall. Thinking about all this probably gives you a feeling. Like “Yeah, no, I don’t want to do all that stuff.” So, really, what you’re saying is, you don’t want to do the thing you think you want to do. You just want to have done it.
If you want to become smarter, or “more intelligent”, then do some science. Imagine you’re in 5th grade, and you have to do a science fair project, and do one. Or take a course online in Mathematics. Or on learning. Or anything. You won’t regret it.
If you want to become stupider, or “more stupid”, then meditate. Or do some arts & crafts. Or listen to classical music. Or jump from an air plane with a parachute. You won’t regret it.
Stay stupid. Thanks for reading.