Yesterday I had a thought-provoking conversation with a friend, who will remain anonymous, about the concept of “brilliance”. I very much respect this person’s intellectual capabilities and achievements, although he/she is rather self-deprecating and feels that true brilliance is in another league entirely.
What is brilliance, truly? How do we measure and define it? It has often been identified by achievement in science, math, medicine, academia, literature.
Intelligence alone is an insufficient criteria. Brilliance is not a function of high test scores, talent or capability alone. Brilliance requires application. It requires hard work, perseverance, sweat equity, passionate devotion to a purpose.
On the subject of intelligence, however, the IQ metric has often been criticized as a culturally biased, one-dimensional measure of intellectual capacity. Harvard developmental psychology professor Dr. Howard Gardner argues that intelligence does not sufficiently encompass the wide variety of abilities humans display, and proposes an alternate theory of multiple intelligences.
The eight, multiple areas of intelligence Gardner suggests include:
People with high verbal-linguistic intelligence are gifted with words and languages. They are typically good at reading, writing, telling stories and memorizing words and definitions.
This area has to do with logic, abstractions, reasoning, and numbers. People with this talent demonstrate reasoning capabilities, abstract patterns of recognition, scientific thinking and investigation, and the ability to perform complex calculations. This area correlates strongly with traditional concepts of “intelligence” or IQ.
Those gifted with visual-spatial intelligence have a strong ability to visualize, conceptualize and translate ideas into design. This type of intelligence tends to lend itself to art, design and architecture.
Bodily-kinesthetic talents include control of bodily movement, capacity to handle objects skillfully, timing and the ability to train responses so they become like reflexes. Those talented in this area tend to perform well in acting/performing, building, athletics, dance, law enforcement, the military, even surgery.
Musical ability includes high sensitivity to sounds, rhythms, tones, music and may even include perfect pitch. The musically gifted are able to sing, play musical instruments, and compose music.
People who have a high interpersonal intelligence tend to be gregarious extroverts, sensitive to others’ moods, feelings, temperaments and motivations, and work well in a group setting.
People with intrapersonal intelligence tend to be introverts and are skillful at deciphering their own feelings and motivations, strengths/ weaknesses, reactions/ emotions.
Those with this skill are gifted with nature, nurturing and relating information to one’s natural surroundings.
I’d have to agree with this multidimensional picture of human capability. It shows respect for humans as many-faceted beings, with the ability to be brilliant, to be geniuses, in many different areas. The visionary artist, the star athlete, the consummate salesperson and the legendary philosopher are all brilliant in their own area.
Still, I submit that brilliance requires a combination of giftedness and devotion. The superstars in each area, the Nobel prize winners, Olympic athletes, National Museum artists, all wholeheartedly spend a lifetime pursuing their chosen profession.
I can say, without arrogance, that I have been blessed in the genetic lottery to be above average in a couple of the above areas. (linguistic and visual/spatial) Except where my profession is concerned, I am by nature a dilettante, so I have never devoted the time or energy to see what I am capable of.
Maybe I need to change that. Thanks, friend.