Wednesday, 16 July 2008

Modesty in Moderation

People who know me well know that I am a great fan of Stephen Fry. It's his intellect that attracts me, not his physique, if you're wondering!

I adore people with brains. I love intelligence and I admire quick thinkers. I also warm to people who recognise they have this quality without feeling the need to elevate themselves to a pompous self-built pedestal, sneering down at the less gifted masses around them. I don't warm, however, to people who are smart but constantly feel the need to remind the world around them that they're 'gifted', 'above normal levels of intelligence', 'my kid's smart, because I was as a child', and 'I've got a degree, therefore I'm more intelligent than you'. You know the sort.

However, my line of thinking was self-challenged this week. Yes, I have views and I analyse my thoughts and draw my own conclusions as to whether they're valid, fair and reasoned and I came to the conclusion that it is actually OK to publicise intelligence and high achievement.

After all, Gordon Ramsay's a great cook. Three Michelin stars, successful restaurants, numerous books and TV shows. He's a good cook, the world knows it, the Michelin raters know it and HE knows it. He's not shy about saying so. Take world athletes. They train for years to win one medal in the Olympics. Tennis players aspire for the Wimbledon title. When they're told they're No.1 in the world, they don't shy away from it and clothe themselves in modesty, they openly declare their superior ability and make sure the world sees their talent for what it is. Footballers are dealt with in multi-million pound transfer deals because they're good at what they do.

So... this begs the question. Why keep quiet if you're intelligent? Why isn't a bright person able to stand out from the crowd and declare they're bright? Why are people with obvious mental agility shunned and accused of being 'bigheads' and 'smart-arses'? For my own part, as I was growing up, most people I knew that displayed this skill also unfortunately held vaues that superior intellect also meant superior values, elevated morale and the general consensus that the world owed them a living. One person in particular, who I won't waste time describing, even went so far one day as to test me on various elements of Les Miserables as he knew I'd gone to the theatre to see it. He'd seen it over fifteen times and wanted to see if he could catch me out - he didn't, and to this day the disdain I hold for him and others like him because of their need to feel cerebrally superior is second to none.

So, I like people who are clever and modest about it. I admire people who know they're clever and use the skill to both their advantage and others about them, without the need to knock others around.

Lots of my friends think I'm scatty, a lot of the time I am. Many of them laugh at my blond moments... and most of them don't realise the last time my IQ was tested - I hit 136. Statistically I'm in the top 2% of the population for intelligence. I should have a degree and I think, given the chance, I would easily have obtained one. I should be running a firm of my own, but I'm doing an admin job as I've chosen to put my children before my career. But I don't look down at people around me who might have a lower IQ because it's WHO people are that counts. I don't randomly assess what their IQs might be. For all I know they could all hold higher levels than me. But that's not the point.

The point is, I love all my friends and family for who they are and I hope that whatever they're good at, they feel comfortable about declaring it out loud and gaining the recognition they deserve. But me? I prefer people to think I'm good at textiles and cooking and that I do stupid things from time to time as I'm more comfortable with those labels.

Now, if you don't mind I have a Logic Puzzle to finish and I'm sure I left that Sudoku book lying around somewhere......

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