"If you believe that only stupid people make mistakes, you’re as wrong as I was. The truth is that everyone makes mistakes. Smart people admit that. Stupid people do not."~ Darius Foroux, 5 Common Mistakes Smart People Make
Part of this conclusion arose from the total lack of intention on my part to make people feel stupid. My actual goal, in explaining things, was to make people smarter. I read books all the time written by people vastly smarter than me, since I was a little boy, and not one of those books ever made me feel stupid. They assumed, and I assumed, that if I was reading the book, it was because I was smart enough to read the book. "Stupid" didn't enter into it.
Moreover, I have never "felt" smart. Smart isn't a feeling. In all the many hundreds of times that I have been told that I'm smart by teachers, parents, friends, authority figures, bosses, co-workers, enemies, strangers and readers, it has been pretty clear that not only was I supposed to understand that they thought I knew stuff and possessed intelligence, but also that clearly I "felt" something in being smart that they didn't.
A favorite tactic of people who consider me smart is to label me, "superior," which fits such words as condescending, haughty, disdainful, pompous ... well, you get the idea. Quite a few readers are picking apart the very precise language I'm using right now as I write this piece and definitely finding themselves filled with a very big "feeling" that I am elitist and immodest.
After a life time of being called "superior" as an insult, it is a little difficult not to identify as "elite." Which really only means a select group. And yes, oh yes, I am certainly a select group. But I don't feel like one.
Earlier today, I was watching an online geological lecture about supervolcanoes, featuring none of the exciting sound effects of a Netflix documentary. This featured an expert, Nick Zentner, a blackboard and some slides. Zentner knows way, way more about geology and volcanoes than I ever will. And several times in the video, he described things that I did not know. Several times, I made an assumption about something he was about to say, only to find that I was wrong.
Now, why doesn't that make me feel stupid?
Also today, I came across this quote from Scott Anderson on JB's B/X Blackrazor blog, sarcastically condemning accreditation for Dungeon Masters:
"We definitely need to give more power to far-off elites who should be allowed to pass judgement on our otherwise private and personal gaming decisions. Definitely. How the hell would I know whether I’m enjoying myself or not without someone who has never met me and doesn’t share my values deciding for me?"
That is plainly aimed at people exactly like me, since I'm daily passing judgement on other people's private and personal gaming decisions, in an effort to force them to question their values.
So why doesn't this make me feel stupid?
Both of the above examples convince me that I'm pretty smart, actually. Anderson is clearly threatened to the point of seeking abuse against anyone who judges him, even on JB's blog, written by someone clearly not judging him. If I'm that under Anderson's skin, I'm clearly punching way, way above my weight.
And if I'm more versed on the patterns of supervolcanoes in the Pacific Northwest, to the point where I can now walk someone through a few rock formations with my limited geological experience, gained from a few university classes and a lifetime of fascination with geography, well that's damn cool. Good on me. I need to watch more of Zentner's lectures. They make not make me feel smarter, but they make be feel a whole lot prouder.
I'm fairly sure than I'm not missing a "stupid gene," but some days I wonder. And though it would explain a great deal, the DSM does not define me as a sociopath, more's the pity. That would be a great excuse. Unfortunately, I miss the mark by an awful lot of symptoms, too many if I want to apply for government mental welfare checks. sigh.
No, I think, with all my smartness, that people "feel" stupid around me because, well, they know they're stupid. And being around other stupid people most of the time, this is something that they don't have to think about, much.
And then, stupidly, they go to my blog, and they read me. Gawd knows what compels them.
The first mistake that smart people make, says Foroux, whose quote leads this post, is that they chase money. Not me. Obviously. When you chase money, you don't tell people flat out that they're stupid. That is a big no-no. If you want to chase money, you treat people like they're stupid, and cater to their immediate stupid needs, while fluffing the hell out of them which, stupidly, they think is sincerity.
Some 20 years ago I experimented with this contrary approach. It works. Stupid people, it turns out, are really amazingly stupid. They all thought I was their friend and they were all willing to give me stuff and help me out in all sorts of ways. It is really scary how well it works.
But it was making me feel sick so I stopped. See? Not a sociopath.
Skipping all that, here's the point: I can't really make anyone "feel" stupid. It's not a superpower I have. No one can make anyone feel stupid. Feelings are something we get from ourselves, and come from the way we choose to feel about the world. People feel threatened, they feel inadequate, they feel pressed and pushed and stressed and judged. They feel all kinds of things, and they often feel that this should definitely be someone else's problem, and not their own.
I feel sorry that some people who open my blog and deliberately make their eyes scan back and forth across the page, interpreting the symbols written there, don't feel enlightened, empowered and motivated to grabbing a hammer and saw and making something more out of their worlds. I do the best I can. I'm dredging up every symbol I can find to give you the tools you need to be better and think smarter.
I can give you all the water that I have. But I can't carry it for you.