Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Rumi on Intelligence

Late last year I posted a piece called "What is Intelligence?", in which I dilated upon the IQ test, and what sort of intelligence it measures.

Being not too bright myself, and consequently always having done badly on IQ tests, so that I'm regarded as a half-wit, and am smiled at indulgently whenever I talk about anything outside of the quotidian, I look upon the IQ test not altogether with approbation.

I, like, feel that the IQ test doesn't tell us absolutely everything about the capacities of our minds, that there are sorts of intelligences outside the grasp of the IQ test.

So when someone sent me what the great Mawlānā Jalāl-ad-Dīn Muhammad Rūmī said about intelligence, I felt vindicated after I'd read it.

Mawlānā Jalāl-ad-Dīn Muhammad Rūmī is, by the way, known to us English-speakers simply as Rumi. He was a 13th century Persian poet, Islamic jurist, and theologian.

Here is his prose poem about intelligence:

There are two kinds of intelligence: One acquired,
as a child in school memorizes facts and concepts
from books and from what the teacher says,
collecting information from the traditional sciences
as well as from the new sciences.

With such intelligence you rise in the world.
You get ranked ahead or behind others
in regard to your competence in retaining
information. You stroll with this intelligence
in and out of fields of knowledge, getting always more
marks on your preserving tablets.

There is another kind of intelligence, one
already completed and preserved inside you.
A spring overflowing its springbox. A freshness
in the center of the chest. This other intelligence
does not turn yellow or stagnate. It’s fluid,
and it doesn’t move from outside to inside
through the conduits of plumbing-learning.

This second knowing is a fountainhead
from within you, moving out.