Thursday, September 20, 2007

REWIND: Are You Smart Enough?

I have a prayer journal that sits on my nightstand. It's usually pretty dusty. That's because I rarely write in it. I only pick up a pen when something is pressing on my heart and head so much that it's literally causing heartache or a headache. When I need a reminder of God's presence in my life, I'll re-read what I've written in my journal. It reminds me God both listens and responds to my deepest concerns.

I recently read some of my old posts here on H-n-T, and realized it's good to remind myself of what God's taught me, too. In January 2006, I wrote, "Are You Smart Enough?" It's personally poignant right now because I'm applying to a Christian grad school program. I'm praying that--if I'm accepted to the program--God will use the experience to make me "wiser or saner or more truthful," and not just a "smarter" kid who knows a few more facts and figures. Check out this H-n-T REWIND, along with some new thoughts to ponder at the end.

From January 2006:

Time magazine recently dedicated a huge amount of space to a special section on maximizing brain power. There were articles on keeping mental performance peaked through exercise and healthy eating. Articles on how to mentally exercise your brain. A piece on the controversial future of nootropes--so called "smart drugs"--that enhance mental performance. Of course, I ate up every word. Doesn't everyone wish they were a little smarter, a little quicker with the poignant example or snappy retort?

As I flipped through page after page of advice on getting smarter, I noticed a one-page essay, "What's So Great About Acuity?" by Walter Kirn. I decided to read it last--if at all. How could editorial blather make me any smarter?

After I read it, I wished I'd read it first. It made me realize I put too much value on mental prowess (and the success--and worth--I often associate with it). Kirn observes:

"... people dream of aping their computers, which grow measurably more agile every six months. Not wiser or saner or more truthful, those immeasurable human qualities that are extolled by priests and poets, but just better at handling elaborate graphics, say, or performing multimillion-variable calculations."

His last line hit me between the eyes: "... it's not what one can do that matters but what's worth doing."

And I realized, smart doesn't equal wise. Or trustworthy. Or compassionate. If all I'm doing is seeking to fill my head with facts and figures, am I missing out on God's purpose for me--doing the things that are worth doing?

To ponder:
1) Consider these two definitions:

Smart: Characterized by sharp quick thought.

Wise: Having the ability to discern or judge what is true, right, or lasting.

Which one do you think most people desire? Why? Which one do you think is more important, or are they equal? Why?

2) What are some things you consider truly "worth doing"? When you do these things (or if you did them), how does it make you feel? Does a task need to make you feel happy or better about yourself in order to be worthy?

3) What's the difference between seeking knowledge for knowledge's sake, and seeking knowledge for a specific purpose? Which do you tend to do? What has your purpose been?

4) Holly sez: "Most people can become smarter by reading, studying, discussing, etc. But, while studying might aid wisdom, it seems wisdom itself can't be obtained through our own efforts." Do you agree or disagree? If you agree: Is there any point in pursuing wisdom? If you disagree: How does one obtain wisdom?

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