Saturday, October 31, 2009

On Brains and Career Choices

Two good friends of mine have surprised in recent months me by asserting quite forcefully that I am smarter than they are.  It's not that I disagree with the assessment; it's more that I'm bewildered by how they came up with enough data to make such a claim (in both cases, I feel quite certain that I lack the evidence necessary to evaluate such a claim).

Out here, too, I am widely regarded as being very bright.  Now, I'm accustomed to being regarded as being highly competent, because good, efficient work speaks for itself.  But I've not been here very long, and I don't feel that my brain muscles have been stretched in a way that would be observable to others. It's not like I've been the center of attention (well, perhaps my fashion, but much less my conversation),  and I haven't been around for many intellectual discussions (I'm quieter out here than you'd probably expect).

Don't get me wrong; I know I'm clearly an intellectual, and that does come across to people (hence why most of my friends from Spirit and Truth expect me to write a book someday).  What really baffles me is how other intellectual friends can so easily assign me a slot above them in that great mental hierarchy of intelligence.  (Not that I don't mark out other friends as geniuses myself, but that's usually only after I've had some sort of intellectual background with them...)

But let's take this supposition and run with it.  So I'm smart.  Smarter than most people.  (Certainly logical thinking is a good beginning that's lacked by most Americans.)  I realized tonight that perhaps my own intelligence is the trap behind my unfortunate Jansenistic tendency of separating my faith from others' reason.

See, I know that faith is reasonable, especially ours (well, to a point, anyway).  And I've heard all the philosophical arguments for faith; they all make sense, but I find none of them to be quite compelling enough.  So I don't get into philosophical arguments about religion, unless it's with people who are coming from the same philosophical playing field as I'm on.

So I've learned, over time, to explain my education and life plans in such a way that they make sense and sound reasonable and nonthreatening (if a bit bizarre) to religiously apathetic people.  My passion remains invisible (though implied), but I'm okay with that; sometimes that's how it's gotta be.

Well. Tonight I was in a social situation with mostly areligious peers, strangers.  So naturally, the first conversation opener is to ask about work or school, and I run through my usual spiel, receiving the usual polite-but-not-particularly-interested responses.

And then it hit me: My intellectual gifts are near-completely hidden in such a situation.  Sure, my social competencies play out nicely, but these people first meeting me will likely place me in a mental bin with people of lesser intelligence than they have, simply because I value religion.

Perhaps that's why I feel like universalizing my life's ambitions is just dumbing them down: because speaking in such a way fails to bear witness to the glorious reasonability of our faith.  And that reasonability so desperately needs to be borne witness to.

And maybe it's just the nonconfrontational people-pleaser in me that only wants to engage with those people who positively want to have religious discussions.  But you attract more flies with honey than with vinegar.  And while you might have fewer buyers at first if you leave the honey loose, it'll last longer and be better kept if you seal it in a jar and open it only at the appropriate time.

Peddling honey is somebody's role.  I just think mine is more like serving tea and waiting for my guests to ask for it.

And yes, Luke, I did title this post just for you.

1 comment:

  1. Anonymous1:13 PM

    It's not data, dear. I just knew somehow, even when I didn't have reason to.

    PS When I said you were smarter, I didn't mean by leaps and bounds :P


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