Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Are You Smart Enough?

From H:
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 pursue? Why? Which one do you think is more important, or are they equal? Why?

2) What are some things you do every day that are truly "worth doing" (eg. caring for a child, spending time with a friend)? Is it easy or difficult for you to find the worth in these things?

3) Are there tasks you view as "worthy" when someone else does them, but you view them as "lowly" when you do them yourself? Why do you think your perceived worth is different?

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