reasons not to be smart #1

Posted on: February 12, 2021

Take a look around and tell me what you see. Both in your vicinity and further away, beyond the limits of your vision. Most likely you will tell me you see the reality and the world in which we all live. But that would not be true. It might be the reality YOU see and the world in which YOU experience your life. But not necessarily the world other people see and live in. One of the most puzzling, albeit simplistic, revelations you have as a smart person is that we don’t necessarily share the same reality and that we take for granted the notion of a shared reality. We might live in the same physical world, but it doesn’t follow that our perceived realities overlap a great deal. They can be pretty much disjoint one from another. Our world is a collection of physical objects and non-physical objects, events, ideas, rules, principles, beliefs, facts etc to which we relate through our own perception and understanding. It goes without saying that our subjective representation of the world will never match the objective world and that our subjective realities will never overlap completely. Where one individual will see a red flower another one will see a red… ish one. But the departure from our master reality goes deeper than this. Some individuals will see a blue flower. Some will see a yellow one. Some will see a different thing altogether and some will see nothing at all. How can you reconcile all these individual perspectives? If most of what you see is radically different from what other people see, then you don’t share the same reality. Your reality is not theirs and their reality is not yours. You live in different worlds that hardly intersect. In the same way that Don Quixote who sees a dragon and Sancho Panza who sees a windmill, while looking at the same thing, live practically in two different worlds. We might have a single physical world but if the images returned by your retina while looking at it are completely at odds with what other people see then you don’t have a shared reality but something more akin to parallel universes.

Exempli gratia.

– Take a look at this man battering his wife because she embarrassed him in public. What you see is abuse. But what the husband sees, and with him some other people that condone his behaviour, is justice. You see cruelty, they see entitlement. You see deviance, they see a male’s birth right. You don’t share the same reality. You live in alternate universes, linked only by the same physical world.

– Take a look at these kids throwing a frightened dog from the roof of a ten-storey building. Then killing another dog by hanging him on a tree while streaming their endeavour live on social media and bragging about it. These are real stories. What you see is brutality. What they see is mere fun. You don’t share the same reality.

– Take a look at Trump’s hardcore fans who would give their life for him. What they see in Trump is an honest, genuine, selfless and efficient ruler while what you see is a deranged pathological liar, a duplicitous and lousy leader who perverts any common sense. You don’t share the same reality.

– Take a look at Brexit. What Brexiteers see is a road to make Britain, once again, a sovereign and independent country, freed from the European dictatorship. What you see is a disoriented people, falling prey to populism and nationalist manipulation, discontent with their political establishment and blaming someone else for their problems. You don’t share the same reality.

– Take a look at these religious lunatics who pretend they received words from God about Trump’s winning a second presidential mandate. What you see is a bunch of impostors lying through their teeth to their confused and blind followers. What they see is the Almighty God Himself, Creator of Heaven and Earth, registering for the Republican Party and meddling in their presidential election while singing the American anthem. God bless America. You don’t share the same reality.

– Take a look at these police officers flexing their muscles in front of some black people for no good reason. What you see is racial profiling while what they see is a legitimate move to keep people, regardless of their colour, in check. You don’t share the same reality.

– Take a look at this crowd of people stoning to death a young woman for the only crime of loving someone deemed inappropriate by her family in Middle East. What they see is justice met and honour restored while what you see is a horrible murder that has nothing to do with justice and honour. You don’t share the same reality.

And so on and so forth. With each object, tangible or nontangible, that can be found in our world, our realities can multiply accordingly and with it the odds they may not overlap.

Someone could argue that my pessimistic view is far-fetched and that there might be some truth in the idea of realities not overlapping when we relate to people from other cultures, completely different from us, people from other distant places, backgrounds, traditions, ideologies but not when we relate to our own circle of friends or family living next to us. But that wouldn’t be totally true. Because proximity tells a lie. Proximity can render a false sense of togetherness and shared reality. You might be surrounded by close people and yet feel pretty lonely. You might be in a crowd surrounded by thousands of people but not live in the same reality with them. You might be home, chilling, sitting comfortably on a sofa next to your loving spouse and family but they might as well live in a different country or an alternate universe. If what they see doesn’t come even remotely close to what you see, then you don’t have much of a shared reality. Proximity doesn’t guarantee that you see the same things and have the same representation of our world while looking at it.

Now. This was a rather long and boring introduction to my actual topic of interest which is loneliness. Loneliness is, to some extent, the result of lack of social contact and of quality bonding. But a great deal of it comes not from lack of social connections but from lack of shared reality. You feel lonely when, talking and relating to people, you realize you are in this reality of yours on your own. You wake up to the fact that your reality hardly overlaps their reality, since what you see is constantly different from what they see. You realize that what removes this sense of loneliness successfully is not their physical proximity and the social contact but the common ground you find with them, the shared reality. This is why I always looked unapologetically for similarity and sameness. This is why I was always drawn more to people who think like me and I always stated it upfront. Because I knew there’s no point in looking for someone different since that is guaranteed anyway. It’s the default position. I don’t look for people who think radically different from me not because I dislike being challenged and I want to live in an echo chamber bubble where confirmation bias rules. When you cross a desert you don’t look for a sunny spot, you have plenty of that already. You look for a shaded place. The difficulty is not with finding people with different worldviews but with finding people where your realities overlap enough so that your connection becomes meaningful.

C.S. Lewis got it right. “What draws people to be friends is that they see the same truth. They share it.”  //Friendship … is born at the moment when one man says to another “What! You too? I thought that no one but myself . . .” //Friendship arises out of mere Companionship when two or more of the companions discover that they have in common some insight or interest or even taste which the others do not share and which, till that moment, each believed to be his own unique treasure (or burden). The typical expression of opening Friendship would be something like, “What? You too? I thought I was the only one.”

When you look for friends you are not looking only for companionship, affection and a meaningful bonding. The other drive that is behind our looking for friends is a strong need to remove this sense of loneliness that comes from “being the only one” that sees things in a specific way. What you look for in friendship is shared reality. Someone that will inhabit the same world.

Of course, you won’t find two individuals who see things in the same way in every respect. That’s understandable. The ideal is to find people with whom your realities overlap a great deal, people with whom you can overcome the sense of loneliness that comes from your own reading of the world. And here is the point where smart people are put at a disadvantage and where intelligence is not an asset but a liability. The simpler you are the easier is to find people who share the same reality with you. Conversely, the smarter you are the harder is to find them. Having a sharper look and a sharper mind makes you see things better and in ways others cannot. Your realities are less likely to overlap then. The numbers are against you. There are fewer people at the top of the pyramid than at the base. The dice are loaded against you. The race to overcome loneliness is fixed. The smarter you are the more likely is to be lonely and unable to find good matches for you, people who would have the same understanding like you. On a side note, from this perspective, Jesus must have been one of the loneliest men on Earth. What he saw bore no resemblance to what people saw. But at least he knew how to put some clay and spittle on people’s eyes to make them see what he saw and draw them to his world. He was exceptional in the way he knew how to build bridges between our disconnected worlds, between our mundane reading of the world and his.spiritual reading. We don’t. We are not Jesus. We are Sancho Panza trying to reach Don Quixote and bring him to his senses. Or even better, the other way around.

Being smart sucks. The smarter you are the less shared reality you have with people. The less overlapping realities. Brace yourself for living in a Tower of Babel where your reaching out is for the most part an exercise in futility. Brace yourself for loneliness.

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literatura e efortul inepuizabil de a transforma viaţa în ceva real

The priest: Aren't you afraid of hell? J. Kerouac: No, no. I'm more concerned with heaven.

literatura e efortul inepuizabil de a transforma viaţa în ceva real

The priest: Aren't you afraid of hell? J. Kerouac: No, no. I'm more concerned with heaven.

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