I used to think I was really smart. Until we moved and my new teacher tested my reading level by giving a paragraph to read. I sat there, and even though I could read, I couldn’t concentrate at all, the paragraph just looked like a bunch of letters. So naturally, I couldn’t answer any of her questions about the text, and naturally she put me in the dumb kids reading group. It wasn’t really called the “dumb kids reading group” but we all know that’s what it was.
[I'm] smarter than a most cats but not as smart as Stephen Hawking.
Even though I wanted to be “really smart,” it became pretty obvious that I am really just “regular smart”. Like, smart enough to be able to decipher IKEA instructions, but not smart enough to understand Walt Whitman or (insert any poet) Henry David Thoreau. Smart enough to be able Google a dumb question, but not smart enough do my own taxes. Smarter than a most cats but not as smart as Stephen Hawking.
In my quest to be “really smart,” I used to do things like be seen carrying around Nietzche, even though I never got past the first paragraph. I even wrote poetry, of which I was pretty certain that even though I had penned it myself, I was no closer to understanding of the meaning than poetry written by other poets.
Here is an example of one of my old poems:
Turkey head, turkey bed.
I baste myself.
And go back to sleep.
Seriously. I wrote that. I mean, not just right this second, but that was a poem that a 17-year-old Jennine actually wrote in all seriousness. What does it mean? My guess is as good as yours!
I also used to love watching art house films. Going to the museum and learning about old artists. Going to galleries and trying to discover new artists. Listening to bands no one has ever heard of. I used to love having conversations about the ‘meaning of life’ and discuss the woes of the planet. How I was going to get things right in my life. How I was going to evolve into this higher being, intellectually.
Being smart, that was something I really wanted.
I am not sure exactly what happened. Or when. But instead of watching art house movies, or even dramas where you know the actors acted. I’d opt for some comic book turned action movie. A goofy comedy. I started watching a lot of TV shows. A lot of TV shows. Like, every single one of them.
Instead of “improving my mind” I’d watch Maru jump into a box.
Instead of agonizing over the evolution of human intellect, I’d agonize on whether I’d get brown boots or black boots this year.
At some point I decided that “intellectual” conversations were about as as meaningful as the conversations about black boots versus brown boots. That in the end, who we are can’t really be fixed by conversation. So I stopped looking for that deeper meaning in life, and just lived in the moment. Moments that mostly consisted of watching Netflix and reading about Internet cats. Since my brain can only fit so much, it became full of meaningless anecdotes from streaming episodes of canceled TV shows (Remember when Tami Taylor said, Hi Y’all!?) and cute things I saw on the Internet, like that sneezing Panda.
I decided… who we are can’t really be fixed by conversation. So I just stopped looking for that deeper meaning in life
Maybe, it’s not just my poor decision making, it’s been scientifically proven that our IQ is up to 14 points lower than our Victorian ancestors. If that wasn’t hindering my quest for intelligence, the fact that brain activity slows after about 20 years of age. That my “epiphany” that everything is somehow meaningless and we might as well just have fun and look at cute things on the internet, might actually be a symptom of my brain’s deterioration.
Of course, it’s not too late. There is always time to learn about all kinds of things that stimulate the ol’ noggin. Even if I delve into more meaningful subjects, I’m pretty sure I’ll still be looking for black boots and Internet cats.
Image credit: Painting by Frances Van Hove, a contemporary French painter, who is very likely to be much smarter than I.