Several things that crossed my computer screen lately have overlapped in interesting ways.
First there was an anecdote from sci-fi writer Isaac Asimov’s autobiography It’s Been A Good Life:
When I was in the army, I received the kind of aptitude test that all soldiers took and, against a normal of 100, scored 160. No one at the base had ever seen a figure like that, and for two hours they made a big fuss over me.
(It didn’t mean anything. The next day I was still a buck private with KP – kitchen police – as my highest duty.)
All my life I’ve been registering scores like that, so that I have the complacent feeling that I’m highly intelligent, and I expect other people to think so too.
Actually, though, don’t such scores simply mean that I am very good at answering the type of academic questions that are considered worthy of answers by people who make up the intelligence tests – people with intellectual bents similar to mine?
My intelligence, then, is not absolute but is a function of the society I live in and of the fact that a small subsection of that society has managed to foist itself on the rest as an arbiter of such matters.
For instance, I had an auto-repair man once, who, on these intelligence tests, could not possibly have scored more than 80, by my estimate. I always took it for granted that I was far more intelligent than he was.
Yet, when anything went wrong with my car I hastened to him with it, watched him anxiously as he explored its vitals, and listened to his pronouncements as though they were divine oracles – and he always fixed my car.
Well, then, suppose my auto-repair man devised questions for an intelligence test.
Or suppose a carpenter did, or a farmer, or, indeed, almost anyone but an academician. By every one of those tests, I’d prove myself a moron, and I’d be a moron, too.
In a world where I could not use my academic training and my verbal talents but had to do something intricate or hard, working with my hands, I would do poorly.
Consider my auto-repair man, again.
He had a habit of telling me jokes whenever he saw me.
One time he raised his head from under the automobile hood to say: “Doc, a deaf-and-mute guy went into a hardware store to ask for some nails. He put two fingers together on the counter and made hammering motions with the other hand.
“The clerk brought him a hammer. He shook his head and pointed to the two fingers he was hammering. The clerk brought him nails. He picked out the sizes he wanted, and left. Well, doc, the next guy who came in was a blind man. He wanted scissors. How do you suppose he asked for them?”
Indulgently, I lifted by right hand and made scissoring motions with my first two fingers.
Whereupon my auto-repair man laughed raucously and said, “Why, you dumb jerk, He used his voice and asked for them.”
Then he said smugly, “I’ve been trying that on all my customers today.” “Did you catch many?” I asked. “Quite a few,” he said, “but I knew for sure I’d catch you.”
“Why is that?” I asked. “Because you’re so g–d— educated, doc, I knew you couldn’t be very smart.”
And I have an uneasy feeling he had something there.
Reminds me of the law that, to a man with a hammer, every problem looks like a nail. The standard we are using to measure the data can blind us to what the data actually is.
My Facebook page brought up an old posting I had done a few years ago. I had introduced it by saying I had discovered
How the devil gets you to not notice Jesus: “People think it’s about distracting someone by making them look away but it’s actually about directing the mind towards something,” says James Brown, a stage pickpocket and hypnotist based in the UK. “If I wanted you to stop looking at something on the table it’s much easier for me to give you a good reason to look at something else. If I give you two or three things to focus on and the one I want you to avoid isn’t one of them, then that’s even better because now you have the illusion of choice.” Oh, wait. This article is about pickpockets…
And I linked to a story I had found at the BBC. It was more on the idea of missing what was important even if it was right in front of you. These two items were especially interesting to me because I had just been reading a devotional entry I had written for the current issue of The Journey about the parable of the Kingdom of Heaven starting out like a tiny mustard seed.
…where is this Kingdom of Heaven Jesus kept talking about? Why is it not obvious and visible? Shouldn’t we expect it to be just as visible as other great works of God?
In this parable Jesus tells us that God is using an approach He has used before: starting small. In fact, there was even uncertainty about where Jesus had come from. Because Joseph had taken his family to Nazareth and raised him there when he came back from Egypt, the Pharisees thought Jesus was from Galilee (John 7:52). The birth at Bethlehem was hidden initially even from Herod.
Small, seemingly insignificant beginnings are recorded all through the Bible. Abram walks to the future Promised Land even before he has children. Youngest son David is not invited to join the welcoming family dinner when Samuel comes to visit.
Jesus tells us the Kingdom of Heaven is also small and easy to miss when it begins. But the beginnings are not like the final results. Those are huge and obvious. Jesus wants to reassure us that, even if all we can see of his work, both around us and in us, is small and unimpressive, that is not the whole story. If we are patient and allow God to fully reveal His plan, things will look quite different, both around us and in us….
Another reflection about not being mislead by the standard of measurement you are choosing to use. It’s almost like God wanted me to get the point.