If you live in the DC area, you probably find yourself saying where you went to school at least weekly, if not daily.
DC, but the U.S. culture generally, tends to be quite University-centric. Honestly, though I have met enough brilliant, kind, strange, eccentric people from Ivy Leagues and community colleges to realize it's not a litmus test for greatness.
Am I smart?
Yes, I attended an Ivy League school. I enrolled in, and in some cases interviewed for, the hardest humanities classes (philosophy, religious studies, ancient literature, constitutional theory, military history, etc). Then, I sought out the hardest honors classes to settle the question once and for all, "Am I smart?"
I had to study all the time...like almost all the time...I recorded classes and walked 5-7 miles listening to the lectures...because I am no prodigy. In some cases, I just found the smartest person in the class and asked them to explain everything to me...again and again and again.
Yes I am Smart
Anyway, at great sacrifice to my health and my social life, I did it. Graduating summa cum laude, I proved to myself I could understand anything that mattered to me.
(I am telling you this story because I want you to know I am not writing this due to insecurity about my own intelligence or admission to top programs.)
True, that experience has served. I rarely find myself intimidated by someone's brilliance. If I don't understand, I either think
A. They're not explaining that well, or
B. If I spent more time with the material I could figure it out.
Is Smart What Matters Most?
But that driving question of my youth "am I smart?" has transmuted into new questions. I don't want to ask people where they went to school, I now want to know...
Where did you learn about love?
Where did you learn how to forgive?
When did you first realize many of your beliefs were handed down to you?
How or when did you update them?
Or did a former lover or friend break your heart and in the process of learning how to forgive your identity shifted?
Maybe you helped transform someone else's life and in that process transformed yourself.
Or did you lose someone or something precious to your that forced your to explore the emotional universe that resides in all of us?
Did you attend a program like Mastery University or Landmark?
Try therapy or coaching?
Do you journal?
Or did you learn from great literature, a wise teacher, a parent, coach or boss?
What poem made your fingers tingle?
Where did you learn that being smart without being compassionate is far worse than being ignorant?
Or how focusing primarily on your own significance while looking for love is like trying to inhale and swallow at the same time?
Not where did you go to school, but "where did you learn to be human" ought to be the new question.
Knowledge matters...I love learning, but I think I now love love more. So much of the atrocity I have studied would have been averted by love, not by knowledge.
So, today I'm just wondering would it be like this week if everyone in DC asked each other these questions instead of trying to find out if their companion is part of America's intellectual elite.
Just something to think about....
Sarah Federman, PhD
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My other blog Language of Conflict addresses the importance of word choice and narration in conflict.
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