A Word on Intelligence

To my mind, this whole idea of measuring intelligence in terms of a figure (read 'intelligent quotient') is absurdly illogical.

Intelligence certainly has nothing to do with how good you are in science, mathematics or the way sometimes our society, especially in this age of booming global economy, quite preposterously relates intelligence to how well have you ended up doing in your life; fame, money or any such thing,  apart from intelligence (in that specific field) happens to be driven by many other factors like one's attitude, passions and also the personal choices one makes in his or her life.

We have to understand that intelligence is a very intrinsic trait of an individual's mind, and should be looked-at in isolation irrespective of the individual's social status or what he or she has chosen to do in his life. A small-time shopkeeper can be more intelligent than say a software engineer or a doctor settled abroad, and a tuition teacher can have a more sophisticated mind than a university professor.

 It goes much beyond the dimensions defined by a society driven more by socio-economical and psychological factors (which varies in different societies and cultures) than by the understanding of the full capabilities of human mind.

For instance, we don’t equate being artistic with being highly intelligent? Doesn’t creating something like music, a painting, a sculpture, a new dish even, require a higher level of thinking than most?  And these are just some examples. There can be hundred other skills one can be good or excellent at.

Too much emphasis on material things has conditioned us to unreasonably relate intelligence with the ability to understand just those subjects which contribute towards our becoming ‘successful’ socially, ignoring spiritual and intellectual values completely.

Consider, as an example, someone who might be excellent academically, and doing quite well career wise  but, at the same time, is utterly perplexed when it comes to  managing relationship with his family, or comprehending what he actually wants from his life. How should we interpret this? Do we say he is an intelligent mathematician but not-so-intelligent in life skills? Likewise, there can be someone who has a good grasp on music or relationships but no knowledge of accounts. In short, we can have someone who might be very intelligent in some aspects, fairly good in few other things and also absolutely/moderately unaware in other set of things. Possessing one form of intelligence doesn't by default means that the person is equally intelligent in other aspects of life too.

I find the categorization of intelligence (e.g. in Howard Gardner’s theory of multiple intelligence as depicted in the picture) quite intriguing and meaningful. One might want to add a couple of more intelligence types but this concept looks quite convincing overall to really understand intelligence in a more comprehensive manner.

It sounds much more reasonable when we say that intelligence is all about what level of aptitude you have in each of these intelligences plus few more and which one is your dominating intelligence. And more importantly, how you are actually able to utilize your combined intelligence effectively to make your life more successful, fulfilling and above all meaningful.

Last but not the least, when we are at the prime of our lives/career many of us might end up giving a bit too much emphasis to practical intelligence but as we close-in towards the tail of our journey - as it happens with most of the people that the realization sink in that it’s actually our combined intelligence especially our capabilities to understand non-practical aspects of life like music, friends, relationships, spirituality, nature and so many other things which will actually decide if we will leave this place after having lived out an intelligent life or not.

About the Author:

Dhir Nigam is pursuing a career in technology at Bangalore, but his passion lies in writing as well. A sensitive and balanced writer, he has been writing on varied subjects. Being a keen observer and an avid reader himself, he has a keen eye for detail when it comes to interpreting things that are happening around us. His favourite topics are human psychology, oral and written communication, technology and its impact on our society etc. He loves animals.