Sunday, January 11, 2009

S vs RS

Having spent a few days with my cousin (he's visiting before heading up to DC for a conference,) I'm reminded of the difference between smart (S) and really smart (RS).

I consider myself to be smart. I'm usually quick with a line, I read a lot (and retain most of what I've read), I know all sorts of useless trivia, and I can figure things out. As far as I know, people haven't needed to say, "But she's a really, really nice person," or "She tries really hard," to make up for my intellectual gaps.

I also like to think that I'm an okay writer.

However, part of being smart is being honest. I'm smart. But I'm not REALLY SMART. My cousin, Dave? He's a RS kinda guy. He's a civil engineer, even though he says that he's not "all that good" at math. Riiiight. I'm not "all that good" at math either, which is why I did not consider about 75% of my possible career options. I'm not even sure if that percentage is mathematically correct. Dave, however, decides to enter a career field which requires an insane amount of math. (He assures me that computers do most of the math for him, but still....)

He also is an avid naturalist, with an impressive depth of knowledge and curiosity about the natural world. For example, he asked his good-sport wife to pull over onto the side of the road so he could study and photograph a fascinating bit of road-kill: a porcupine. He cannot resist a good zoo, and has visited them all over the country, and internationally, too. How many people can say they've visited the zoo in Buenos Aires? Dave can.

He's an impressive writer--I've mentioned his blog before. However, not content to write about his adventures in English, he's also attempting to write an additional blog--en espanol.

The way that I can tell that Dave falls into the RS category is that he is humble. I've found that RS people don't feel the need to prove their intelligence. Unlike "smart" people such as myself, who will "accidentally" drop words like "zeitgeist" into everyday banter, or start conversations saying things like, "I was reading this fascinating book about Shakespeare's early life...", Dave isn't trying to impress. His natural intellect is searching out the new, so he asks questions and aspires to learn how other people perceive the world.

I've found this with other RS people, too. I remember attending a wedding and talking about Lost and music with this lady. She was nice. I found out later that she was a neurosurgeon. A freak in' neuro-surgeon. Not once did she feel inclined to toot her own horn. When I asked her what she did, she simply said, "I work at a hospital," and returned the conversation to the Sawyer vs. Jack debate. She had nothing to prove.

Now, having worked with gifted children, some of whom, I swear to you, were (and are) smarter than I could ever hope to be, I can assure you that this humble quality comes with time. Young RS people can be insufferable, until they learn that it's an isolating way to live.

I'm just grateful to have the RS people in the world. They use their superior knowledge for the betterment of us all, all the while nodding and listening while us "smart" people talk about the important things, like television programs and other cultural touchstones of this zeitgeist.

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