What’s the difference between intelligence and having a good memory?
As I was speaking to a friend the other day, I ventured to ask him this question. If you know me at all (I’m including this little tidbit for those of you who don’t), then you know that I have an excellent memory. I can recall nearly any fact that I read or heard throughout the day and it’s not hard for me to be able to mentally picture certain moments in the past — while I’m do not possess a 100% photographic memory, I’m very close to it. Because of this, I rarely have to study for classes (don’t tell my professors or fellow students!). However, just because I have an amazing memory, I’m not necessarily considered intelligent, right?
If intelligence is the possession of knowledge, then it would serve to say that everyone who can remember things is smart. But that definition seems too simple; surely there are some highly intelligent people who can recall very little, but know how certain processes work or have a deeper understanding of topics. Perhaps I’m toeing the line between knowledge and wisdom. If my definition of intelligence consists only of the possession and accumulation of knowledge and knowledge is gaining information, then the answer must be: yes. If one is intelligent, they have a good memory in order to store the data collected.
But wisdom? Wisdom is the ability to apply that knowledge to your own life in a purposeful way. One can be intelligent without possessing wisdom. Wisdom has absolutely nothing to do with the memory that we have, although a sharp mind is always a strong asset. In my youth, it is easy to mistake the two and think that because I can retain all this information, I am a wise person.
In truth, when I say that I am wise for this reason, I am declaring the opposite. I was reminded of this when a fellow blogger commented on another post of mine. When I went to read their blog, I was struck by the bio that I read. I know only a shade of what she has experienced, but I dare not suggest that I understand where she comes from. I don’t! A glimpse into a struggle doesn’t mean that one knows what it feels like to endure that trial. I replied to their comment and said as much; their final word on the subject was to compliment me and call me wise because I knew of my ignorance.
I am a creature of paradoxes, but this one rings truer than all the rest. I have often heard it said that people are wisest when they are aware of how little they actually know. Since God has blessed me with such a sharp mind, it is easy for me to take pride in my own abilities and consider myself “learned.” I have grown accustomed to strutting around with so many right answers and forgetting that the amount that I know is only a drop in the ocean of knowledge. I appreciate the kind comment, but can taste bitter to utter acceptance of words that you know you don’t deserve. Even now, the voices in my head are encouraging me, attempting to convince me that I am only at fault because I don’t believe I should receive such praise.
Y’all know I have a weakness for BBC shows and Sherlock is no exception. I introduced my sister to it recently and as I was contemplating all of this, one sentence pierced through the fog of thoughts: “The frailty of genius is that it requires an audience.”
It’s true, though. How does someone become a genius? By being above the general standard. And how does one rise above the average? By comparisons to other people. No one can be a genius without an audience of idiots to be compared to. I am in no way claiming to be a genius, although my pride-swollen ego would suggest it in times of great arrogance. Is it a sign of wisdom that I admit that I like demonstrating my exceptional memory to others so that I can be reassured of my superiority? But when I say it that way, it is only revealed as more pride — I would be lying if I denied my cockiness and conceit. To be honest, I like being compared to people and coming out on top. I’m honest in this blog and I owe it to you, dear reader, to reveal my true reflection in the mirror as a prideful person with an ugly soul. It’s the result of years of distorted thinking. Even as a child, I always scored high test scores and was always selected to be in advanced groups for everything. You can see how easily that can go to a child’s head. However, this is simply knowledge.
It was never my goal to become a knowledgeable person, but rather a wise one. I could write my thoughts on the subject every night for a month and still not have the answer for myself; this post barely scratches the surface of the sentences swirling in my mind. Perhaps I shall never realize what it is that makes one wise and maybe my pursuit of wisdom will haunt me for the rest of my life. However, I do know one thing:
I know nothing. And whether or not admitting that fact makes me wise, I do not know.