You know that feeling when you’re in a serious Zen writing mode and you’re not looking at the screen because the letters on the typewriter are all that matter right now but then you decide to take a quick peek to make sure that the cursor is still in the right place and you realize that somewhere along the way you accidentally HIT THE CAPS LOCK BUTTON INSTEAD OF THE SHIFT KEY AND NOW YOU’RE SCREAMING EVERYTHING THAT YOU’RE WRITING WHILE CONTEMPLATING IF IT’S REALLY WORTH IT TO GO BACK AND FIX EVERYTHING?

Yeah. Today was an aggressive Monday. Anyway.

So, I’ve calmed down slightly from my initial adrenaline rush, which was quite evident in my last post (and roughly 36 seconds ago), and I’m back with quite the riveting topic of discussion: intelligence. What exactly is intelligence? How is it defined? Are some people really “smarter” than others? Where does the distinction lie between feeling smart and being smart?

Intelligence refers to an individual’s breadth and depth of knowledge and skills that are acquired and applied over the course of his or her life. This is true, but only by definition. I think the abstractness of intelligence is too frequently forgotten. In fact, we don’t make enough of an attempt to perceive intelligence as the intangible and ductile idea that it is. In a society that rewards busyness and correlates success with income, the core of what human intelligence is gets lost in translation.

There really is no concrete answer to what intelligence is, but I hope to make a decent attempt at explaining.

I believe that intelligence is kind of a proficiency or aptitude that a person has that develops from a combination of natural talents and life experiences. And these natural talents and life experiences are distinct and unique in every single person. A neurologist’s expertise lies in research, patient care, and medicine, while a break dancer’s art takes the form of self-expression through movement, music, and rhythm. A social worker most likely has heightened emotional intelligence, while an athlete’s focus is on his or her own physical fitness and capacity.

The dancer may not know how to take a patient’s blood pressure or administer an IV, but that doesn’t make her less intelligent than the doctor. She is just smart in a different way. The social worker may not be able to create a diet plan or swim four laps in under a minute, but that’s only because her intellectual scope exists in an entirely different field. Each of these people have their own strengths, their own knowledge, and their own special place in the world.

One thing I have learned being a STEM major is that science craves answers and thrives on curiosity. There always needs to be a number or a clear solution to a problem that is supported by valid evidence and plenty of calculations. And even outside the realm of science, we are hardwired to attach a label to even philosophical ideals, simply because we don’t like the feeling of not being able to comprehend something.

But I don’t think intelligence can truly be measured, at least not in this way. It is a fluid and changing concept that bends and warps as we grow, learn, and engage with our lives.

In fact, my gears are turning even as I’m writing this post, and your mind is absorbing what I’m writing and tucking it away until tomorrow morning, when you tell your mother or friend or professor about that one really intriguing blog that you read, and then they too will gain that knowledge, interpret it completely differently than you did, and pass it on to the next person who comes along. And so on.

Intelligence is ever-growing and ever-changing, and—although countless attempts have been made—it is not something that can be perfectly categorized or contained.

And that’s what makes it so beautiful and powerful.

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