I caught up with Dr. Allison after Thanksgiving. She’s softened a bit on her Anti-Rob stance since I recently posted her quote (I guess she’s more vain than I had originally thought). She had an intriguing holiday, celebrating it with her ridiculously intelligent family. Parents, siblings, aunts and uncles, grandparents, all possessing incredibly high levels of education in medicine, law, physics, history, engineering and computer science. Allison is a very bright woman, but the other members of her family seem to have I.Q.’s that are north of 150. Therefore, Allison is massively intimidated when they come together as a group because they are capable of discussing, in great depth, a plenitude of topics. Here is a truncated (seriously) list of the subjects the family covered over Thanksgiving Day, to which Allison simply observed in amazement:
-St Paul and his work to expand Christianity
-Alexander the Great
-Roman, Greek/Macedonian and Persian military strategies (including the use of phalanxes)
-The relation of Sanskrit to European languages
-Evolutionary discussion of the timeline of Homo Erectus, The Java man, Homo Sapiens, Neanderthals, the Bronze Age, the Stone Age
-Development of culture/community, burying the dead, cave paintings, creativity in early societies
-Importance of genetic diversity in propagating species
-Ice ages and glacial patterns
-History of Dubai (e.g., the lavish wealth and outrageous waste of money (including the tallest tower, indoor ski slopes, etc.))
-The Protestant Reformation and an extended discussion of the state of corruption of the church/Popes, political power, and the climate that led to Martin Luther creating the Ninety-Five Theses
-Role of confession in the Catholic church and discussion of the evolution of confession/penance over the past several hundred years
-Fanatical Islam, Sharia law, offenses that lead to stoning and execution, the importance of preserving family honor, differences in treatment of women in Muslim countries; prohibition of alcohol and intoxicants and the rationale and repercussions in the Muslim world; factors leading to suicide bombers/martydom
-The Taliban and their role in drug trade
-Inquisitions: conversion by sword, general discussion of how religions treat nonbelievers; persecution of Christians; how Armenia persecuted the Christians only later to convert to a Christian country
-Haitian history: detailed description of the later battles of the Haitian Revolution at the Citadel; Haiti’s debt to France to pay for their freedom and how Versailles was built using Haitian imports
-Napolean and the Louisiana Purchase
-The Big Bang Theories (are they obsolete?); the concept of a multi-universe, string theory, quantum mechanics
-Voodoo, possession, the power of suggestion as used in war as a means to help soldiers reduce their own fear and instill fear in others
-History of oil and its effect on Argentina and Trinidad
-PTSD and battle fatigue in WWI, the story of Patton slapping a soldier he called a coward for battle fatigue but in reality had malaria, WWII, Korean, Vietnam War, factors related to the increase in soldier suicides for our current wars
-Concept of the draft, compelled service in other countries, the doctor draft in the United States
-The importance of friendships for soldiers
-WWII and segregation of black soldiers, Truman’s decision to integrate the armed services, the treatment of blacks after returning from war
-Factors the British used when colonizing India (caste system), the linking of the Aryans to the top caste of the Brahmins as a way for the British to encourage the Brahmans to identify with them rather than the lower castes
-Beyonce’s and Destiny’s Child musical career, Christina Aguilera’s voice superiority, Sammy Sosa’s skin lightening, Michael Jackson’s weirdness and use of Propofol, Lindsay Lohan and her crazy father
-The Swine Flu and why the elderly are less susceptible
Now what is wrong with this picture? On the surface, nothing. In fact, if you have even a cursory interest in just a small number of the topics covered you might consider this a fascinating way to spend your holiday. But that is because you have not met these people. There is no doubt they are highly intelligent. But consider the following shortcomings that virtually all of them possess:
-They cannot easily identify, much less express, their emotional needs, causing them to have limited intimacy and high levels of dissatisfaction in their romantic relationships.
-They hoard their millions of dollars, refusing to enjoy any of it. They equate money with anxiety, something to be preserved solely “for a rainy day,” for a retirement that they may never see. Thus, they live fairly meager existences despite great wealth and lose sleep when even small amounts are lost due to market fluctuations.
-They don’t exercise for the natural high and robust health, but rather as a way to simply avoid dying prematurely. The same can be said for their eating habits, as they rarely, if ever, engage in an unhealthy meal just for the hell of it. Their health concerns override any desire to enjoy food.
-They don’t spend significant time with friends because it detracts from their “intellectual pursuits.” However, they can’t definitively say their hobby brings them happiness per se, just that it makes them smarter.
-They are obsessed with what other people think of them, specifically (and not surprisingly), how smart and “worldly” they are. Their careers are more about social status and prestige than contribution and prosperity for all (also know as “Success vs. Significance”).
In short, they exist as esteemed members of our society. But existing is not the same as living, and this is a problem that is far more widespread than any precocious college kid who is planning to go to B-School and make $350K can fathom.
This is not a rant against smart people (or rich people for that matter), far from it. Some of the happiest people I know are smart and extremely well-off. But these individuals are also wise, which is far different than intelligent. These people have lives with balance and perspective. They take care of themselves (physically, emotionally and financially) but recognize that tomorrow may never come. They immerse themselves in our world and embrace it rather than remain distant and hyper-focused on others’ views of them. They don’t live in fear or to obtain status. These people are like those I met when I worked in the nursing home, which is probably the last place on Earth you would think to look for real happiness.
These concepts are important for anyone, but especially for younger readers. Accumulating knowledge is never a bad thing, but only if it’s simply a part of your overall life plan. Most of us will never be so far outside the gray like Allison’s family in terms of overall I.Q., but far too many people have her family’s hang-ups and neuroses that chop block our goal to be happy people. Allison’s family is incredibly smart, but they’ve missed the boat on far too many non-intellectual factors of life. Ergo, they are inherently miserable, even if 99% of the population will never know. Is that what you want to be?
The moral of this story is simple: intelligence can bring you happiness, but wisdom will guarantee it.
If you enjoyed this piece please consider giving your blessing to my Facebook Fan Page. Thank you.