Sunday, September 12, 2010

The Lonely Smart

You do not need to be exceptionally smart to make a decent life for yourself in the United States.  You can get by with a mediocre education and still “succeed”.  Let us agree that raising a family, or buying a house or running a business are some of the common markers of success that our culture uses.

This, of course, leaves many unaccounted for, doesn’t it?  If you don’t sport any of the commonly accepted markers of success, then you are some sort of an outcast, aren’t you.  You don’t belong to the average, to the majority.  Now there are many obvious types that don’t belong.  You might be racially, physically or psychologically “disabled”.  There is another interesting class of those-who-don’t-fit-in.  These are the lonely smart.

The lonely smart don’t talk like the average majority, don’t think like the average majority, and they are definitely not considered huggable by the average majority.  They eek out an existence in society by adapting to roles that the culture forces on them: scientist, writer, artist.  Many of them accept these niches—even compete to attain them—because they have accepted the social program to one degree or another.

The lonely smart are tolerated, even looked upon as useful.  But they are not admired by the average majority, not championed, nor held as figures worthy of emulation.  They don’t play professional sports, sell gold albums or star in blockbuster movies.  They are—by the standards of the average majority—odd.

The lonely smart have something that pretty much ensures that they won’t fit in.  A different set of values.  They seek things like truth, mental flexibility, intellectual prowess, the good of the species or the welfare of living beings.  They can find passion in a rock, or awe in a biological design, or beauty in the language of the wind.

Oh, and the really smart ones?  They can see past the petty squabbles and political divides and fashionable views.  These folks won’t play the petty games that all the rest find so meaningful, will they?  They learn to blend in, and they don’t reveal to any but a very few the way world gets organized in their minds.

Will Rogers said in his autobiography (
The fellow that can only see a week ahead is always the popular fellow, for he is looking with the crowd. But the one that can see years ahead, he has a telescope but he can't make anybody believe that he has it.

 Does this make you ache?

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