“…Everyone is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.”
Not the sharpest tool in the shed, we all thought.
We were all convinced that ‘George’ (last name first) was the least intelligent soldier in our 1000-person Basic Training battalion. And likely the last soul that one might mistake for a Rhodes Scholar.
We wondered aloud if he was too ‘basic’ (not bright enough) to last past the first few weeks.
The lights were on, but no one was home, we often joked – and the elevator in that home didn’t go all the way to the top floor.
By our jury’s judgement, some village was missing their idiot.
On the rare occasion that George said anything, it came out sounding equally unintelligent and unintelligible – to us, anyway. A Kentucky drawl that fishtailed randomly in dull bursts of pretzel logic.
He never seemed to complete thoughts to our satisfaction – whether spoken or written. We reasoned that math, for George, was also a complete mystery.
We believed him to be a bluegrass bumpkin.
A farm-raised fish out of water – wander(lost).
Our unanimous verdict? George was a lost cause. No sign of intelligent life.
That is, until the week of our ‘land navigation’ examination.
There we were – five of our battalion’s self-proclaimed ‘brightest’ minds (and George). Wandering in a random field of palmetto trees – dumbfounded.
We were holding a map marked with several six-digit grid points that we’d been tasked to find in the enchanted forests of Fort Jackson, South Carolina.
And we were officially lost.
Scratching our heads with our protractor’s edge – trying to figure out where we’d gone so horribly wrong. We felt like a village of idiots.
And then George asked if he could try.
What did we have to lose?, we thought.
George looked into the compass, down at the map, and then up into a clearing just ahead.
‘North’, he said – clear as a bell. We found ourselves falling in.
We were now – somehow – following George.
He led us mindfully (and effortlessly) to the first assigned point. Then he found the next. Then the next.
In a matter of minutes, George had morphed into our Moses.
He led us masterfully through the wilderness to all 8 objectives, and back to the rally point in under an hour. And we finished first – a good half an hour before the next group.
Evidently, George was a naturalist of the highest order. A ‘land nav’ savant – wisely able to read the lay of the land (lakes, mountains, and trees) like literature.
He was a scholar of country roads – of Mother Nature.
Elegantly intelligent in both geography and topography – sharpened and field-tested in the Kentucky wilderness, no doubt.
George was a genius.
As fate would have it (a few weeks later), I found myself struggling mightily with our weapons qualification examination. I had managed to get so deeply (and anxiously) into my head that I could not fire my way out of a paper bag – let alone hit enough targets to pass the test. At first, some of my drill sergeants laughed. They judged, jokingly. ‘Not the sharpest tool in the shed’, that Jenkins. It was ‘Basic Rifle Marksmanship’, after all. Not intermediate or advanced.
Any idiot with a reasonable amount of intelligence could shoot straight, right? Not me.
I wondered aloud (to myself) if I was a lost cause. Maybe my own ‘lights’ weren’t so bright – and I’d be going home prematurely. Or delayed, at the very least.
I was sure that many others were wondering about my intelligence, as my bursts continued to wander every which way but center-mass.
Eventually, I passed. On the last possible day. The very last soul in my 1000-person battalion to qualify.
And the very first?
The moral of this story, for me?
Everyone is a genius. Just because their intelligence isn’t immediately apparent doesn’t mean it isn’t inherent.
You may find that the athlete that you fear couldn’t string a sentence together to save her life may have a physical intelligence that would blow your mind. You might also find that the photography buff who struggles in the classroom may be a genius in the dark room. And the rocket scientist (or poet laureate) who is mocking the ‘jock’ may be exceptionally clumsy and/or socially inept.
Perhaps, IQ tests conceal more than they reveal.
Much of our modern world has been conditioned through the ages to exalt verbal and mathematical intelligence. These are the gold standards.
Even in our beloved free-thinking denomination, we are often guilty of worshipping at the altar of the spoken and/or written word.
Other kinds of ‘smart’ (naturalist, spatial, existential, etc) we are often quick to write off – or to classify as ‘gifts’ (but not ‘intelligence’).
Even in our own children.
Over the next four months (roughly), we’ll offer a series of services that will invite us each to dance with Dr. Howard Gardner’s theory of multiple intelligences. We’ll dedicate a worship service to the essence of each of the 9 (naturalist, musical, linguistic, logical-mathematical, existential, spatial, interpersonal, intrapersonal, and bodily-kinesthetic). Some we’ll consider together, some we’ll consider singularly – and some will be Soulful Saturday services.
Kindly see the below lay of the land –
Sunday 4/28 – Naturalist Intelligence (“nature smart”)
Sunday 5/26 – Linguistic Intelligence (“word smart”)
Saturday 6/22 – Spatial Intelligence (“picture smart”) + Musical Intelligence (“music smart”)
Sunday 7/21 – Emotional Intelligence **Interpersonal Intelligence (“people smart”) + Intrapersonal Intelligence (“self smart”)
Sunday 7/28 – Bodily-Kinesthetic Intelligence (“body smart”) + Logical-Mathematical Intelligence (“number/reasoning smart”)
Saturday 8/10 – Existential Intelligence (“spiritually/morally smart”)
We’ll endeavor not to get too hung up in the weeds of the facts, figures, stats, research, and academics of Gardner’s concepts (as tempting as that might be for the ‘logical-mathematical’ geniuses among us). We’ll instead invite ourselves to empirically re-search our own minds, bodies, spirits, lives, and loved ones.
We’ll revisit our personal definitions of ‘intelligence’. We’ll try all 9 types on, and see how they fit – inviting a deeper understanding and appreciation of the genius all around us (and within us). We’ll mine our depths, mindfully – and see what lifelines we may find (recovering, perhaps, some self-evident truths we may have lost along the way).
Maybe we’ll strike gold.
On The Bright Side,