The first entry in the Oxford English Dictionary defines intelligence as;
”The faculty of understanding; intellect. Also as a count noun: a mental manifestation of this faculty, a capacity to understand.’’
Although this neatly explains what the word means, it doesn’t somehow fully define what intelligence is. Now, I know that a lot of very clever people have spent a long time trying to get to grips with intelligence; what makes it, what defines it, and how we should nurture it in ourselves and others. I can’t speak for all these people but I get the feeling that the desire to get to the heart of ‘intelligence’ stems from the feeling that in itself, ‘intelligence’ unlocks secrets which are otherwise hidden beneath layers of complex language and concepts.
But not all of life’s secrets are hidden in the same place, so where should we be looking?
Most of us will start by looking where we’re told to look, by our teachers, our families and our friends. However, over time we tend to find our own routes, driven by the one thing that we can’t really be taught; passion.
When we are young, there can be a tendency to experience anxiety about standing out or about being different from everyone else. Hopefully as we get older, we begin to recognise that what is different about us, also defines us. It provides us with a better understanding of who we are and what we bring to the world. In my own experience I have also found that the older I get, the more impressed I have become by other peoples’ passions. Their commitment to and enthusiasm for a particular hobby is charming, precisely because it is often unique to them.
One of my passions is writing
I enjoy my job, but I’d give it up tomorrow if I could write for a living. When I write, I make the rules. I put words in people’s mouths and I decide how and when a story ends. One day many of the things I do now will naturally come to an end but I can’t ever imagine not writing. When I write, I feel like I’m doing something different from everyone else and something valuable. When I’ve had a challenging day at work or just a challenging day in general, writing tends to soothe me. It boosts my self-confidence and provides an alternative way for me to express myself.
So, what does all this talk about my passion for writing have to do with intelligence?
When I write, I have the chance to experience and learn new things, and to be taken to places in my mind that are quite separate from my everyday experience. Does writing make me clever? No, probably not. It does however take me out of my comfort zone, encouraging me to explore new ideas in previously unconsidered ways.
I’m not going to tell you what intelligence is (sorry to disappoint). I’ll leave the answer for the many people around us who are driven, by their own passion, to answer such questions. What I will tell you is what I tell my children; what matters is not how good you are at what you do, but how much you love it. In other words if you have enough passion, you will find intelligence; an intelligence that belongs just to you.
If what I’ve said rings true for you, or even if it doesn’t, how do you define intelligence?