Relativity

Or, An Argument I Have With Myself At Least Once a Week

ME: I hope I’m smart.

ALSO ME: Why?

ME: I guess I would feel proud of myself for being smart?

ALSO ME: But why is it something to be proud of? It’s not virtuous to be smart. There’s no inherent value in it. You can only be proud of what you do.

ME: I guess there’s this feeling that I could do more. That I have potential. It might give me confidence.

ALSO ME: What difference would it make? Would it change anything?

ME: I guess not, but—

ALSO ME: —And really, what even is it to be “smart?” It’s not just the accumulation of knowledge. Einstein knew a shit-ton and even he said that “Imagination is more important than knowledge.”

ME: He also said Chinese people were “obtuse” and “filthy.”

ALSO ME: OK, yes, he said some messed-up shit. Which is actually a great example of why it’s not a good idea to deify someone just because they have done brilliant things. It’s bound to end in disappointment, because even those people are human and have probably said and done terrible things like many other humans. Anyway! He was wrong about some things, but he was right about relativity! And he was right about knowledge. That’s not what intelligence is.

ME: Maybe it’s the ability to doubt?

ALSO ME: You’re just saying that because you’re constantly full of doubt.

ME: The ability to reason?

ALSO ME: Well, you have no control over that. That’s a product of your environment and circumstances. That’s not achievement, that’s luck. What’s the point of taking pride in something you lucked into?

ME: I just feel like I want an accurate depiction of my capabilities.

ALSO ME: You’re never going to get that. You’re never going to know for sure. It’s not a quantitative thing. You can take an I.Q. test, but all that will tell you is how you compare to other people.

ME: Maybe I want to compare myself to other people?

ALSO ME: Has that ever led to any kind of personal satisfaction for you? And come on, you hate the kind of people who do that! Think about it: have you ever met a self-proclaimed genius or a Mensa person you actually liked?

ME: Bethany was in Mensa and she was OK.

ALSO ME: Even Bethany didn’t like hanging out with Mensa people! The idea of treating people differently or honoring them because of their intelligence is discriminatory. It’s social stratification, based on a shaky social construct.

ME: I guess so.

ALSO ME: Everybody is knowledgeable about some things and ignorant about others.

ME: That’s true.

ALSO: It’s all relative.

ME: You’re right.

ME: …

ME: I still wanna be smart, though.