I’m having an interesting exchange with a friend via e-mail and we’re talking about intelligence and spirituality. I thought I’d edit up some of the exchange and offer it here. We’ll call my friend “Jack.”
Jack: I understand your position here but I’m not sure I agree. People are intelligent in different ways.
Me: This is true, although we frequently find correlations. It’s unusual to find someone who is dirt-stupid on IQ or creative measures, but who is also highly actualized spiritually. Sure, lots of geniuses are total wrecks emotionally – I get what you’re saying completely.
Jack: I do believe there are people out there whose intelligence and Christianity happily coexist – my mother, for example.
Me: That coexistence can be a function of a couple things. In some cases you truly have an enlightened grasp of what Christianity is and ought to be. In other cases, the coexistence results from denial and an amazing capacity to uncritically hold mutually exclusive views. I don’t know your mother well enough to say what’s at work with her – you’re smart, and smart is often hereditary, so she might well be in the former camp along with a number of my own Christian friends, who are awfully smart. But for every one of those there’s a couple million of the latter.
Jack: It is those of us cursed with a spiritual intellect, an incessant need for questioning, the ability to see and articulate what others cannot, that are destined for a living hell (ok, sort of kidding there).
Me: As sirpaulsbuddy once told me: If you’re smart, you’re cursed. If you go and get an education on top of it, you’re doubly damned.
Jack: And what of the danger in accessing our own intellect? How can we say we are smarter than others? And I’m not trying to be falsely humble…I really wonder about this. What if someone really is offering a simple answer, borne out of exhaustive thought and action? And are we always able to discern those people from the ones offering simple answers minus the leg-work behind it? Any why the hell do I have this ability if I wasn’t meant to help save the world and myself with it? Get back to me on all that, will ya? 😉
Me: Well, I can’t rule out the possibility that this road we’re on leads eventually to an ultimate answer that’s pretty darned simple. But at this moment in time it’s pretty evident that simple answers are the product of two things:
a) simple minds, and
b) cynical minds looking for tools to dupe simple minds
You can find b) in abundance every time we have elections. And you can find a) in abundance by walking out your front door, turning on the TV, opening a Web browser….
Here’s the thing. “Simple” isn’t a constant. It’s a relative function that has as one key variable the power of the mind doing the perceiving. What is impossible for me is simple for somebody else because he or she knows a lot more about the subject at hand.
So when we arrive at that ultimate simple answer, its simplicity will probably have less to do with the complexity of the idea itself and more to do with the fact that we have evolved our minds to a point where they are powerful enough to perceive its totality.
And minds do not evolve that way through the slothful pursuit of easy answers.