Ever been in love? Congratulations. You’re a genius.
My IQ score rides on the cusp of ‘genius.’ They told me so. When I was ten.
The memories of my first Intelligence Quotient assessment are fragmented, but firmly set in place — like the memory of my first corn dog, my first slumber party, or the first time I broke a bone. There was a stern-faced woman. Fluorescent lighting. And lots of tedious questions.
I arranged the puzzle pieces correctly — and quickly. I displayed a formidable capacity for logical reasoning. I had a considerable vocabulary — which included, among other terms, the word ‘hieroglyphics.’ And I was promptly placed in Gifted & Talented Education Classes, where I remained for the duration of my pre-adolescent academic career.
By the second grade, I was already reading at a ninth grade level. By the ninth grade, I had cultivated the ability to mentally ‘photograph’ entire sections of text on a page, which I could revisit & scan at opportune moments — oh, say, during pop quizzes & tests. Not surprisingly, I landed in the 99th percentile on virtually every standardized test that was volleyed my way, through the twelfth grade — ultimately scoring a perfect 800 on my verbal SAT.
I am, by all textbooks accounts, the very model of a ‘gifted & talented’ individual. On a good day — a ‘genius.’
Except — it’s bullshit. All of it. Completely. I suspected it as a child — I know it now, for certain.
Don’t get me wrong — I do believe I’m a genius. Just not in the same way my well-meaning teachers & testing coordinators meant it.
I’m a genius because I have the capacity to fall in LOVE. Allow me to explain. Or rather, reference another genius who can explain it much better.
Malcolm Gladwell. Ever heard of him? Author, philosopher, speaker, Canadian. Like most of my favorite people.
In an interview with NPR science correspondent Robert Krulwich on the “Fate & Fortune” episode of Radiolab, Malcolm Gladwell posits a euphoric idea . . .
. . . the idea that so-called ‘geniuses’ are not, in fact, more talented, more evolved, more intelligent or more genetically-gifted than ‘regular folks,’ but rather, they are ACTIVELY in LOVE with the object of their (vocational) affection. And they STAY in love.
“Why are people so hostile to the notion that what GENIUS is is an EXTRAORDINARY LOVE for a particular thing?”
. . . Gladwell asks, in exasperation.
If we reframe GENIUS-osity in this way, then Wayne Gretzky is in LOVE with hockey. Lady Gaga is in LOVE with self-expression. Albert Einstein was in LOVE with theoretical physics. Alexander McQueen was in LOVE with performative fashion. Yo-Yo Ma is in LOVE with the cello. Oprah is in LOVE with personal empowerment. Emeril Lagasse is in LOVE with Cajun seasonings. Rumi was in LOVE with — well, quite possibly LOVE.
In LOVE, as in — I can’t stop thinking about you. Dreamy. Obsessive. Lose track of time. Limitless energy. Infinite fascination. Insatiable hunger. Filled with elation. All-consuming. Can’t imagine anything better. If this ends, the world ends, and I end with it. Hot. Breathless. Cosmic. I live for you. I’d die for you. This is Kismet. This is IT!
This state of ‘extraordinary love,’ as Gladwell puts it, allows us to do extraordinary things.
In this state — if even for one breathless moment — we are each, standardized testing be damned, complete & utter geniuses.
Trust me on this.
I am, after all, a genius.