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Thursday, December 27, 2007

Insights About Hierarchy and Intelligence

Was thinking tonight about how most people assume that there is a hierarchy concerning intelligence. It seems this hierarchy idea is also extended to individuation and spiritual development. A common notion is that there exists a "higher self" and that there are steps someone can take to be on a path to individuation by expanding one's consciousness or spiritual capacity or ability to be happy - and this takes a "higher" intelligence. Those who are further along on this path do not want to be around those who are behind them, because they are "dragged down." Those with higher intelligence are generally considered to possess the ability to evolve and learn, while those with lower intelligence must repeat their problems until they practice enough to "get beyond them." Progress requires minimizing one's ego.

I have found many of these assumptions not to be true.

The first assumption I used to hold was that more intelligent people than myself could teach me more and offer me better opportunities to learn than less intelligent people. Through trial and error, it seems that intelligence didn't have much to do with learning; pretty much anyone could teach me something valuable. What I discovered is that we seem to be limited by the ability and the challenge to find what we might have to offer each other in the time we have to share together. Apparently, it's more of a psychic ability, an emotional intuition, the ability to ask questions or the willingness to play around that helps to discern what this possible shared opportunity is - rather than the factor of intelligence.

Intelligent people often practice an arrogance that gets in the way of their ability to question themselves personally. They can act as if they know it all in their speaking style as well as their actions. This favoring arrogance as a strategy or mannerism seems to come from having been challenged or sparred with. Men in general are often the culprits of this pastime of sparring for position or recognition, whereas women tend to covertly spar for the attention of others. Cultivating arrogance is one way to deal with being challenged. Also using classic debate techniques, such as those that discredit the challenger, etc. are often favored. So this is why arrogant people won't question themselves, because doing so is regarded as a weak sign of self-doubt in the context of debate.

Being open to questions is a strength. Vulnerability is an asset.

Although I can debate and defend effectively, I often choose not to do so. However, I will play and compete vigorously in the context of a game if I believe my gaming partner will "fight fair" and not be hurt during the process. I won't fight for the sake of jockeying for status or in order to be respected or believed. Women in my culture seem to use self-effacing tactics to attempt to demonstrate their membership status, which I won't participate in either. If it seems I tend to come across as openly declarative and seem to flaunt a lack of social constraints, I don't mean to freak out others. Sometimes men think I'm trying to tell them what to do, when I'm merely relating what I've done. I do love to problem-solve, trade notes or invent. Women assume I'm bragging, because women in my culture aren't supposed to talk about their successes.

I find that debate, which men tend to do, to be counter-productive. I feel the same for defending or second-guessing what people might want, which women tend to do. Instead, I merely ask questions and offer observations about assumptions that others might not approach. My goal is to become intimate and connected with people, but some people won't allow me to get close because they feel pressured by my unusual questions. I guess I'm not all that elegant in how I might ask these questions. Some people are freaked out about me asking, so they go away - which is usually fine with me. I can't control (nor would I want to control) whether someone will answer me or not or what they will think of me asking these sometimes "forbidden" questions. To me, it seems more constructive, compassionate and loving to find out someone's motives without threatening them with manipulation or attack if they reveal themselves. But some people have a hard time trusting that I'm not going to use information against them - perhaps because these motives seem to be so unbelievable. Of course, my stating what my motives are make them all the more suspect! So people confused by my actions assign other, more negatively small-minded motives to me that seem to make more sense to them.

So these assumptions about intelligence and the ability to evolve tend to build on each other. It goes on from there. The commonly held assumptions are that those who possess higher intelligence and can learn faster are attracted to others who are more or equal intelligence and speedy at learning as they are. Someone who can learn faster would not want to put up with someone else who is slower. Someone who is going through what the intelligent person feels they have already worked out or "gone beyond" is generally regarded as "behind" and the person who has already experienced this issue is "ahead."

I have discovered that I cannot blame someone for being where they are at. We all started from somewhere, and we were all given a better or worse start in life by how we were treated as children and what happened to us since - as well as the meaning we made of our experiences. I have learned that it is much more common for people not have had the lucky breaks of having had wise parents that I experienced. In fact, if they had bad parents and turned out to be nice people by and large, it gives me more compassion and patience with them.

Instead, it's the willingness to progress that I measure. The ability to face one's demons and challenge oneself to grow is my criteria of who I want to associate with, rather than intelligence. I realize this is a demanding criteria. So I also trust that people will know for themselves when they need to lay back and take a break from pushing ahead as well as know when they may be over-extending themselves too far. This is something I also must trust in myself, though I often deplore my own "laziness."

The longer I live, the more I realize there isn't much of a hierarchy of needs when applied to the ability to individuate, as Maslow and other psychologists have offered as a hypothesis. People seem to learn in fits and starts. Their ability to sustain new behaviors is erratic at first, no matter where they are starting from. A person who is learning may grasp the whole picture all of a sudden, as in an epiphany, or make erratic leaps. They can go gradually step by step as many people seem to do. Their pathway may not be the same as someone else's, but at the same time, people do have principles of progess in common. A person who has experienced what another person hasn't can offer some questions or examples, but not much else unless they can actually directly give or create the experience first-hand as good teachers can. This is what a writer, artist or the skilled & educated are sometimes capable of doing. That's why it's tricky to"help" someone else until you help yourself first, because in a sense as you communicate, you are modeling the behavior you have in mind.

Someone who seems to be "high" or "holy" is often the worst and most self-indulgent at another particular character defect. Ironically, they often tout what they most need to learn. Associating personally with someone who advertises themselves as "evolved" is no guarentee of enlightened and compassionate treatment in the future, so I tend to hang out with people who obviously do need help.

I was thinking about all this because I was remembering a study on how appearance will bias how people are treated socially. Those people as myself, who have high foreheads and small jaws appear to others as if they are still children. As such, these sorts of people are socially considered to both have the capacity to learn and the tendency to stay in a childhood state throughout their adult life. The drawback is people such as myself are considered to be without authority.

This is sort of funny, well, because I am an author. Maybe being just a blogger doesn't really count as authorship?

It's my suspicion that there are many, many people out there who are "saints" and are merely minding their own business, enjoying life. I run into some of them from time to time...

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