I consider myself as being “middlin’ smart”. I’m of above average intelligence. People have always told me I’m smart. I have one graduate degree and am working on another. I once considered an academic career. I speak two languages well and can muddle through in a third, which is quite an accomplishment for a ‘Merican like me.
But I am not “smart-smart”. How do I know? Because I am also complicated and arrogant. I have my share of complexes. I come across as a smart-ass, even when I don’t want to.
The smartest people I have ever met are also the simplest. Two old professors come to mind who had a tremendous capacity to simplify the complex, elucidate the obscure: they were utterly simple men. Their favorite things, respectively, were ice-cream and soccer. They had luminous minds and kind hearts. They never presumed being well known in the University. They had the capacity to look at the most commonplace phenomena with awe, and find new significance in them.
A third brilliant man, an expert in classical Greek, also comes to mind: he had a teaching post in a famous Ivy League University. He had a hard time communicating Sappho to his students, who were among the most highly recruited future leaders in the nation. In frustration he asked his class “Well, if you can’t get into Sappho what is a poem in English you like?” Not one student in this prestigious university could offer a favorite poem. He took a sabbatical to visit Africa and teach small children in mission school. The kids there asked him, “Mr. Charles, Mr. Charles, teach us English! Mr. Charles, Mr. Charles, teach us about God!” It broke his heart. He left the University and became a private tutor.
Mr. Charles loves buttered rolls.
Maybe one of the problems we have today is too many middlin’ smart people mouthing off.