Tuesday, November 16, 2010

would you like mensa with those corn chips?

ok, well sorry to tease if you have never heard of Mensa but it is not a kind of salsa but rather a club. "Mensa is the largest and oldest high-IQ society in the world. It is a non-profit organization open to people who score at the 98th percentile or higher on a standardized, supervised IQ or other approved intelligence test. " [Source: Wikipedia]

I was reminded of Mensa this week when a friend of mine was telling a story of a supermarket checkout conversation he over heard.  The teller had no idea that Napoleon was a historical figure (let alone his last name) but a teacher cleared all that up explaining that he was a ruler from Italy! Where it gets ugly is the two of us thought that she was incorrect since he was the emperor of France. Well, it turns out he was both, and at the same time. So, and don't tell anyone, we were wrong. Our assumption that we knew history better than this other person turned out to be incorrect and, while only I was silly enough to investigate, I am left feeling a bit put out.

So what does this have to do with Mensa? Well, my issue is I would like to keep getting smarter as I get older and when I was younger I aspired to one day write the Mensa test and prove it. With age and family though that aspiration has changed to creating an environment for my kids where knowledge is readily handy in their personal development and they are not one of the googler generation who know nothing but "lets google it". (That's right, I don't believe googling everything increases knowledge or intelligence a great deal because far too much of the results are opinions, bad assessments or motivated with someone else's personal gain in mind or hastily forgotten because it can be).

So, who cares? Well, the issue is (I think) that the more knowledge we possess or wisdom we have gained from compiling it, stirring and mixing the more easily we can form our own new ideas that are different or potentially even new. Well, at least that is my theory.

More importantly, I think it contributes to a class system and separation in our society between rich and poor, the "haves" and the "have nots". Interestingly enough though, I would say that western society sees the "haves" as those that can afford material wealth. Eating healthy is not a desirable acquisition, we take our clean water for granted and our health care systems are such that we lead long lives even if we treat our bodies like crap. A smoker can end up taking off 8-10 years of their life from the habit but they could still live to 70 instead of 90. Today the average female lives to 80 but a hundred years ago that would have been 53 and 160 years ago in 1850 it would have been 40. So society as a whole benefits from the increase in human capacity. So, then in a western society where we continue to live longer who are the "have" and "have nots"?

Getting back to the start of this point and my observation on the lack of knowledge by the clerk and my incorrect assumption about the accuracy of the person who comes to her aid, I think the "have nots" are those people who are moving through life only with the knowledge required to sustain themselves and entertain themselves in the short term. Not a -bad- life really. Good food, a warm bed and lots of entertainment that takes them through a range of emotions in a way an old fashioned life just couldn't do. So why are they "have nots" ? My theory is that when these people hit a wall or find a spark within them that wants to light a fire of change, they cannot do it themselves. Worse though, I think because they do not have a wholesome sense of curiosity outside of their sphere of current knowledge and an understanding of just how hard the world is for the leaders and the successful they give up and retreat into even lesser state of human potential. That human potential that sparked within them is extinguished and it is like a match once lit, it cannot light itself again.

if instead of sheltering folks less in-the-know and we share our knowledge for free shouldn't it work out? no, because compared to today's entertainment its boring.

ok, I realize this post really hasn't gone anywhere but I am perplexed at the idea that not all humans want to learn, better understand the world and with each passing year discover how they can contribute to our future in some way.  See, instead what I see are people who do go through the effort but get tired of waiting for the world to come to the same conclusion and make incremental changes and so they take matters to a more radical level. They understand the problem and can't wait idly by any more and so they speak out and take action and instead of appealing to the masses they sound just like another crack pot.

So how do you continue to develop yourself intellectually, share ideas and information with the world, help others get engaged in that journey, shape the future for the better and not sound like a crack pot?

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