Saturday, 18 August 2012

Clever Clogs?

I think most people secretly think they’re geniuses. I find it hard to believe that anybody would go around thinking they were stupid. It’s not how the human ego works.

At work I meet a lot of people – customers AND staff – who are utterly stupid, but don’t recognise that fact, as if it’s blind to them; masked behind that same stupidity.
It forces me to ask the question – am I clever?

I’ve always presumed the arrogant answer, that yes I am.
At school I loved learning. I would read interesting entries in encyclopaedias, and my brain was still such a sponge that I absorbed it all.

I was shy, and a wee bit reclusive, and had a head for maths.
Even then, I wasn’t considered the best of the best. Each class was split into six groups, and the higher the group, the cleverer you were considered to be. So set six were morons, and set one was the next Eisteins (or Newtons, or Faradays, or whatever).

In primary school, I was set two all the way through, and I always felt very anxious about that. Why wasn’t I good enough to be on table one? What could I do about it? What special treatment were they getting that I was not? At this point, I absolutely loved school, and wanted as much as I could take. It devastated me knowing that I was second class to the supposed elite.
At high school, I was much lazier. Yes, I had moved up to set one now in every subject going, but I never really applied myself. I had my head in the clouds, thinking up my short stories. School didn’t matter. In fact, it was a distraction – my really work was taking place at home, in those old textbooks of mine, where the worlds of Peter Pea, or Assassin came to life.

That’s where the problem started.
See, I think people either presume too polar opposite opinions about me.

There’s group 1 who spend time with me, but don’t really know me, and presume I’m a secret genius. This mostly applies to my family, I should add. They think I’m fantastic at maths, and geography, and history, and all these other subjects where my mind, honestly, has huge mammoth chunks of knowledge missing.
Then there’s group 2. Like the first, they’ve spent time with me, but again, do not know me all that well. They think I’m stupid, and incompetent. This mostly applies to the staff that I work with, or teachers at college/uni. Perhaps it’s my accent (there’s a generalisation amongst British people that northerners are stupid; Mancunians  especially so). Or perhaps it’s just the way I act. Truthfully, I don’t care. It bothers me for 5 seconds, then I just shrug it off, and go about proving that opinion wrong.

Ultimately, I’m probably just fairly average. I don’t have an expert knowledge of, say, physics. I can add up, but point me to Pythagoras and my maths starts to stumble. My one saving grace being my writing, and the knowledge I take to that. Yes, I’ve been lazy and avoided that world for such a long time, but it is my speciality. If there’s one thing I’ve learnt as an adult, it’s that genuine all round cleverness is incredibly rare. People like Stephen Fry on QI, or the Eggheads are not necessarily the definition of ‘clever’. Genius maybe, but clever? Nah.
Best I can hope for is somebody 50 years from now looking at my stories and saying, “Aah, they’re quite clever.”

If I reach that level, I’ll be happy.
So, to answer the question I set myself, am I clever? I don’t know. I think it’s a fairly egotistical person who would immediately answer yes to that.

I think I have my moments, but then I have moments of equal measure why I’m beyond stupid.
At the end of the day, it’s my actions what count, and ‘clever’ is just an opinion others think of you, or not.

Time to stop chasing that set one dream? I think so.

Move on, Anthony… Next question?
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