Quick to Wit, Slow to Wisdom

I was talking to a friend the other day, and mentioned that I was a slow thinker. And she said she was too. Considering that both of us were working quite ‘fast’ in usual terms, it made me wonder- what was slow about us? And what exactly is defined as fast?

Photo by Amelie & Niklas Ohlrogge on Unsplash

Astrology buffs may know Mercury as representing intelligence, but it in fact represents thinking speed, which is not the same as intelligence (ref: Liz Greene). And that is what society in many spheres has come to value. Thinking speed over accuracy, wit over intellect. Walk into a gathering and we seek the ‘life of the party’. Walk into a family setting and you wonder at the smart child with all the answers. They grow up to be rising stars, the fuel in the engine, and in general happy. Let me call these people “Witty Wonders (WW)”.

And there is the other extreme. You see this as you meander through boardrooms puddled in strategic thought. You notice this in the quiet child who opens his books every evening and is lost in thought. You find here the quiet intellectual, the sophisticated thinker, the behind-the-throne strategist. Answers take time, but startle you in their richness. These people grow up to be the ‘slow thinkers’, the ‘late bloomers’ but often quite contented. I shall call these people the “Venerable Wise (VW)”.

Which brings me to my theme- a very subjective viewpoint. Society values wit over wisdom, and often mistakes quickness for intelligence.

Here are a few (sardonic) observations that I have made over the years:

1. If you are WW, you might end up thinking you have all the answers. And if you are a VW, you might mistakenly think you have none

2. If you are a WW, you might end up living life to the fullest, until the road runs out. If you are a VW, you might save your best life for later, until your life runs out.

3. If you are a WW, you might make friends fast, and lose them equally fast. As a VW, you might find friends too boring to keep, yet too hard to find.

4. If you are a WW, you might love telling stories. As a VW, you might find yourself writing them.

5. If you are a WW, you might be popular. As a VW, you might be respected.

It might be tempting to classify VW and WW as merely introverts or extroverts but you find both categories equally well filled with intros and extros. Introversion or extroversion is about energy, the VW/WW paradigm is about using the energy you have. WWs develop their ideas like fast food- a quick flash-in-the-pan, a bit of juggling the ladle, a smile and a show…and then a good looking (perhaps even healthy) pizza is right there in front of you. VWs, on the other hand, cook their ideas on a slow flame, there’s a lot of waiting….the lid is often closed, many might think the fire’s gone out…but when cooked, their aromas seduce the neighborhood.

Which type are you? I strongly suspect both. We are a spectrum. Some of us are VWs in childhood, WWs in middle age, a bit of both when our hair turns grey. It feels nice to analyze our behavior and classify ourselves into neat buckets. It makes living easy. It makes relationships mathematical — you know who to chase, who to hang out with and who to flee from. But in the process of evaluating others, we lose our ability to do exactly that…evaluate. When we rely on buckets to define others, we are forced to place ourselves in a bucket too (to find our matching bucket).

It is important to have the ability to judge other people. Yes… it is. But when we allow society’s buckets to form our opinions for us, we lose our ability to judge. It is then that we become judgmental.