WE ARE ALL INTELLIGENT
Everyone is born with intelligence. We all have brains that have evolved over thousands of years. A product of evolution. But not everyone shares the same level of intelligence as, let’s say, your kid neighbor/future CEO across the street who mows your lawn in the summer and shovels your snow in the winter. Or a baby being born this very second who could be the future Einstein of our
times–a Stephen Hawking awaiting in line. The next Bill Gates or Steve Jobs might even be hours away from being created somewhere on the planet. Who knows? He might already be alive today, working in his father’s garage, tinkering with stuff that we might consider uninspired, boring, geeky house work. Regardless, everyone is born with a brain. And provided it is working properly and normally, we can all be considered “intelligent” creatures.
But what about wisdom? Surely, you need some form of intelligence, some capacity to capture it. But does age play a role in determining how wise one is? Is someone automatically wise because of his age? Is someone automatically wise because of his intelligence? Does he need a perfect score on his SATs or does he require a high IQ in order to qualify as wise? And at what age can you tell that someone has reached that certain “great wise man” (or woman) status? There are so many questions and there are just so many variables that need to be addressed. I don’t think my mind is capable enough to even grasp this mind-stretching and in-desperate-need-for-scientific-research issue. But I dare to talk about it nonetheless.
OLD AND WISE
A good friend of mine and I had a small conversation the other night about wisdom. According to Cagney, my friend, one definitely needs intelligence. There is no question about that. But it is not the entire basis for wisdom. Those are two different things. He said that wisdom is driven not entirely by what we’ve learned in textbooks or in school but of life experience. It is using the knowledge we’ve learned to apply in our daily life and making the right decisions, learning from the mistakes we’ve made so we don’t have to repeat them ever again. It is common sense. Whereas intelligence is usually based on knowledge and the capacity to acquire it and apply it. It is inherent. Intelligent parents normally yield intelligent children. Although there is an entire debate on this (more research required and more studies). Environmental factors also play a huge role especially one’s parents and the society/culture in which he lives in. But let’s not deviate from our main problem here. Are older people truly wiser? Or is it all relative to one’s experience and background? According to my friend, “not necessarily.” He has spoken to many people who are older than him who are not wise at all. That opens the door to many younger people who are “wise beyond their years.” That is exciting news! I agreed with him…although all my life I thought that the older one gets, the wiser one becomes. Not the other way around.
“The older, the wiser” is the old adage and is usually true or, at least, I thought it was. But I suppose that is not always the case. Many young people are wise too, depending on their life experience and the environment that molded them to be the person they are today. A man in his 60s who’s been living in the mountains and didn’t care to grow emotionally and mentally may not be the same as someone, maybe an award-winning reporter or news analyst in his 30s, who’s been around the world and has covered many compelling news events. Or even someone who has dedicated his life, learning the teachings of God and sharing back that knowledge to others and helping people in return.
TALES OF WISDOM FROM THE EAST
In Asia, where age is a huge component within the fabric of society and of the culture itself, older people are treated with utmost respect and are regarded as wise or possessing great unquestionable knowledge and experience. I know that because I spent seventeen years of my life there. Parents are treated with respect and so are the elders. I grew up where (sorry, mom and dad) parents are usually always right. You don’t question the adults, and you don’t talk or answer back or you’ll get a smack!
Answering back and debate was not encouraged especially in our household. The only place, as far as I can remember, where a healthy exchange of arguments was okay was within school premises. Other than that, be ready or you will get a little spank or face the consequences of being labeled the “ungrateful” son or daughter, at least for a day or two, or until the tension dies down. Thankfully, it was not as dramatic as facing 20 lashes in the back or a stoning, as other cultures would have imposed on such insolence. That would’ve been overkill. Although I am curious to find out if that is still the case today. So when your parents ask you to do something for them, you say it with a big yes and a smile on your face. No questions asked. And if you have a question, you better ask it properly and politely. Courtesy and respect for the wise elders–these were high on the list of early childhood teachings when I was growing up. Although now I feel that wisdom doesn’t necessarily holds true with age.
The concept of being wise is somewhat subjective, and the situation where and when it is applied also varies. I think it’s all relative and decision-making plays a huge role in it. My decision to make a mistake several times in my life has taught me that if it yields the same results, and not necessarily good results, it means that I am undoubtedly making the wrong decision, and therefore I should stop and think of another way to solve the problem…one that will yield good results. By learning from my mistakes, I would alter my fate and, in return, acquire wisdom. I would have become wiser, if our theory holds true, and would have upgraded my level on the “wisdom-o-meter” rating.
But, for the time being, I will remain on a quest and strive to make the right decisions, unafraid to make mistakes, and live life at present using my past knowledge and experience as my tools to advance into the future. Remember, we are already intelligent beings and that learning is part of the journey. It’s what makes the quest to being wiser all the more exciting and fulfilling.