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March 5, 2017

8:14 PM

“You are the most intellectual person I ever met”

Francisco Miraval

I have learned a long time ago to take seriously and respectfully all the kind words people express about me. I am always profoundly thankful for those words. Yet, I don’t believe them. I appreciate more the intention of the words that the meaning they have. In that way, I avoid creating an inaccurate version of myself based on what others say about me.

In that context, an unexpected commentary I heard last week caught my attention. A person I met by chance at a community event suddenly told me, “You are the most intellectual person I ever met”.

I thanked the person for his kind words about me, but I didn’t say anything else. After all, I don’t know what he meant by “intellectual” and I have no idea how many people he knows (just a few, perhaps.)

Regardless, there was something clear to me. Assuming it is true I am the most “intellectual” person he knows, perhaps, in addition of only knowing a handful of people, he believes a degree in humanities means being “intellectual”.

He repeated his affirmation a few times, so I wished, without saying it aloud, for him to be wrong. He must be wrong, because in a vibrant, always growing, and diverse community there are, I am sure, dozens and dozens of more educated, deeper thinkers than me.

Perhaps some of the true intellectuals are so focused on academic and research work that they don’t interact with the community. Or perhaps they live simple, solitary lives. Or perhaps they stop being “so intellectual” when they are in a group.

In other words, perhaps by ephemeral friend never met any of those true intellectuals because all of them have learned how to regulate the intensity of their intellectuality when they are in a group.

They do what they do and they do it right without calling attention to themselves, so people don’t see them as “intellectuals”. On the other hand, the pseudo-intellectuals such as myself, who also suffer from acute imposter syndrome regardless of our degrees and experience, always want to overcompensate our own insecurity talking and acting as “intellectuals”, even when it is neither time nor the place to do it.

Or perhaps it is quite the opposite. Perhaps being an intellectual means to recognize your limits, insecurities, and ambiguities, accepting you don’t need to hide your education from others, but also you don’t need to “impose” it either, so you can allow a free and open dialogue.

There is, however, another option. Perhaps what the gentleman I met last week was trying to say was something totally different and unrelated to me (as I narcissistically assumed). Perhaps he was saying that at a time of constant, profound and unpredictable changes, we should all become “intellectuals”, that is, find out if live is meaningful or meaningless.

That internal dialogue (devaluated and almost forgotten now) will not necessarily turn us into “intellectuals”, but it will help us to recover our sense of awe and humanness. 

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