Conversations For Transformation: Essays Inspired By The Ideas Of Werner Erhard

Conversations For Transformation

Essays By Laurence Platt

Inspired By The Ideas Of Werner Erhard

And More


Smart People

Chicago, Illinois, USA

May 13, 2015



 "He had no particular formal training in anything, but he understood things as well as anyone I'd ever seen; and I've been around a lot of smart people  in academia. This is an extraordinary intellect I saw at work."
 ... Michael E Zimmerman, Integral Theorist, Professor of Philosophy, University of Colorado at Boulder
This essay, Smart People, is the third in the eighth trilogy Visits With A Friend:
  1. Read To Us
  2. Seven Fingers
  3. Smart People
in that order.
The first trilogy Visits With A Friend is:
  1. Second First Impression
  2. Do Artists Retire?
  3. Presence Of Love
in that order.
The second trilogy Visits With A Friend is:
  1. Black Brick
  2. Wet Water
  3. On Saying Nothing
in that order.
The third trilogy Visits With A Friend is:
  1. Master Of Life
  2. Face To Face
  3. Love And Kindness
in that order.
The fourth trilogy Visits With A Friend is:
  1. Personal Piece
  2. Magnum Opus
  3. Walk A Way With Me
in that order.
The fifth trilogy Visits With A Friend is:
  1. Natural Expression
  2. Essential Question
  3. There Is No "The Answers"
in that order.
The sixth trilogy Visits With A Friend is:
  1. Sophisticated Palate
  2. Open To Everyone
  3. Portal
in that order.
The seventh trilogy Visits With A Friend is:
  1. Meetings With A Remarkable Man
  2. Being Directed By The Unanswered Question
  3. Out Here
in that order.
The ninth trilogy Visits With A Friend is:
  1. Visits With A Friend IX (working title)
  2. Visits With A Friend IX II (working title)
  3. Visits With A Friend IX III (working title)
in that order.
 The eighth trilogy Visits With A Friend is the sequel to
  1. Three Stairs At A Time
  2. Something Fierce, Something Wonderful
  3. Serving High
  4. Simple But Not Easy
 in that order.

 It is also the prequel to Creating For Creation's Sake.




What makes for smart people? I mean really:  what makes a person smart? People say you're one of the smartest people they've ever met. And when it comes to the smarts  department, the people who say this about you are no slouchers either. It's the smart  people who say you're one of the smartest people they've ever met. What exactly is it about you which makes them say it?

I find the topic of what makes a person smart, daunting. I'm no authority in this area. Publicly saying what I think in this regard could prove to be hazardous to my health. The topic is dizzyingly deep and mind-numbingly vast. It's not something I'm taking on lightly. Worse, in preparation for taking it on, I've done no research. Why? If I'm going to do this at all, then I prefer it to be an authentic presentation of my personal experience of you, rather than an amalgam of others' opinions. I'll say whatever I'll say about you at the risk of sounding naïve. Sounding naïve in front of a wide internet audience on this subject, which is to say "being naïve about being smart", is bad enough. What's worse in my opinion than being naïve about being smart, is being smart about being smart. So I'm really OK-er with the former.

Part of being smart is knowing a lot, being well read, having studied etc. To be considered smart, you have to master the material, the concrete and the abstract, the notions, the ideas, the theorems and the metatheory  that bind them all together and give them a context, a conversational domain  if you will, and you have to be a master in the conversational domain. You have to be able to impart it (which is to say you must be facile languaging  it accurately) before people consider you smart.

You bring all this into play. But (and here's the thing) a lot of smart people also bring all this into play. So I don't think that's what smart people refer to when they say you're one of the smartest people they've ever met. It's certainly a contributing factor. But it's not what grabs their attention and makes them go "Wow!".

There are entire realms of knowledge ie entire worlds of being smart which serve survival  (and by "survival" I'm referring to survival of the ego). There are entire realms of knowledge which are deployed in order to dominate  ie being smart in order to be better than  ie being smart in order to win  (and when I say "win" here, I'm implying win as in when you win, someone else must lose). In accounting for why smart people refer to you as one of the smartest people they've ever met, I'll bet  it's not because you're impressing them with survival knowledge and / or with domination knowledge - even though you're familiar with both of them, and even though you can deliver witty and erudite discourses on one or other or both, without putting much stock in either.

What I call "survival knowledge" has a double entendre. It isn't merely whatever knowledge we've accumulated to draw on in order to survive. More apropos, it's also the way we hold all  knowledge ie it's our entire epistemology  which is skewed towards survival as the purpose of life  ie it's skewed as if survival is  the purpose of life. If the truth be told, there are hugely intelligent people whose lives come down to little more than survival.

<aside>

Listen: survival is not the purpose of life. Completion is.

But that's a subject for another conversation on another occasion.

<un-aside>

What I call "domination knowledge" also has a double entendre. It isn't merely whatever knowledge we've accumulated in order to dominate ie in order to win. It's also holding this knowledge as if dominating is required for survival. Those people whose lives come down to survival and domination, may yet be smart. But I don't think having survival knowledge and / or having domination knowledge is what smart people refer to when they say you're one of the smartest people they've ever met. It's not what grabs their attention.

For most of us, being smart ie what we know, serves survival. In other words, being smart serves the ego  - or at least tries to. And for the most part when we're in survival, we're blind to who we really are (perhaps more pertinent, we're in survival because  we're blind to who we really are) ... which means we're blind to who everyone else really is as well. With you, what you know serves the being  rather than the ego. In other words, what you know serves who you are - and when you're aware of who you are, you're also aware of who everyone else is.

It's clear to me that what you know serves everyone. You live (which is to say you are)  that what you know serves everyone's well being, whereas others are that what they know serves the ego, survival, and winning. Again, both kinds of knowing (which is to say both approaches to holding knowledge)  are smart. The former however, is very  smart. It results in an entirely new way of knowing, an entirely new way of being with the material, an entirely new way of holding the material, an entirely transformed epistemology - in fact it entirely recontextualizes (I love  that word) what it is to be smart.

So could this be the implicit (if not the undistinguished)  quality smart people refer to when they say you're one of the smartest people they've ever met?

Yes it could. This could be what smart people refer to when they say this about you. It's their intuitive  assessment, their undistinguished recognition of presence  driving your intellect rather than survival driving it. Your intellectual base (if you will) isn't survival. Your intellectual base is the well being of all human beings. Everything you know and the way you deploy everything you know, draws not on survival in service of the ego, but rather on who you really are being of service to the well being of all human beings. Others' intellectual bases are of a different order of things as they seek (knowingly or unknowingly) to garnish the rewards of their own smartness, for ego. In all fairness, perhaps it's true-er to say they may simply be unaware of the possibility of basing intellect on being of service to the well being of all human beings, rather than basing intellect on being of service to the ego.

It's my assessment that what you do, in a word, is true*  your intellectual base to being of service to the well being of all human beings. This process allows you to be used by the truth. Said another way, this process requires you become a clearing where the truth can more powerfully go to work. Being unflinchingly used by the truth, and the ability to be a clearing where the truth can more powerfully go to work, works extraordinarily, and is perceived as you being smart, very smart.

<aside>

In this conversation about you being one of the smartest people smart people say they've ever met, I've purposefully avoided citing the role of the brain you were born with, in you being smart.

Without disparaging the role your unique brain plays in you being smart, if I'm going to credit a quality which makes you one of the smartest people smart people say they've ever met, then I prefer to credit a quality over which we all  have some say. Crediting the role your brain plays in you being smart, is to credit mostly an accident of biology rather than any personal quality you intentionally bring forth, for you being smart. Furthermore, no one but you was born with your brain - or will ever have  your brain, for that matter. So there's no shareable quality and no replicatable behavior  which can come for others, from crediting you being smart because you were born with a smarter brain.

You true-ing* your intellectual base to being of service to the well being of all human beings, is both a shareable quality as well as replicatable behavior. It creates the possibility for others of also being smart in this way. That's why I prefer to focus on it, rather than on mostly an accident of biology of the brain you were born with, when crediting a quality which makes you one of the smartest people smart people say they've ever met.

<un-aside>

It's an ability which is available to all people. And smart people who say you're one of the smartest people they've ever met, also have this same ability. However at the heart of it, they may not have made it their personal business to develop it the point where it also provides a mesmerizing, formidable intellectual base. You on the other hand, have  made it your personal business. And that's what grabs their attention and makes them go "Wow!" - or, said another way, that's what they grok  (as Robert Heinlein may have said) about you.

<aside>

To "grok" is to directly experience  while bypassing understanding.

<un-aside>

The bottom line I say is smart people intuitively grok you by the way you're driven by being of service to, grounded in, and committed to the well being of all human beings, and by the novel, maverick  intellectual possibilities this process unleashes and makes available to you when you true* your intellect to it - and only  to it.

Smart people grok this in you, resulting in them knowing you as one of the smartest people they've ever met.


*   Merriam-Webster's Dictionary allows true  as a transitive verb: to make level, square, balanced, or concentric; bring or restore to a desired mechanical accuracy or form.


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