Saturday, 17 September 2016

Afflictions of the Mind: Part-6 (Stupidity)


Who's The Fool - by Susanne Clark


Stupidity


Stupidity is a less than optimal functioning of various mental faculties. We have seen the numerous extraordinary gifts a Mind has, and if most of them are not functioning properly, that Mind is afflicted with stupidity. Its symptoms are a general dullness of the Mind, inability to learn new things, new skills,  to understand, comprehend and analyse, and also, inability of logical and critical thinking. In extreme cases a stupid person fails to talk coherently, performs irrational actions, displays a total lack of self control or control over emotions, and can become violent and harmful to others. Stupidity worsens when in a group. A group (such as armies) behaves in extremely stupid ways compared to the individual stupidity. You don't want to be near a mob of stupids.


Never underestimate the power of stupid people in large groups.     
- George Carlin

How would I know if I’m stupid? Probably you won’t know. Stupidity comes with added inability to properly judge one’s own intelligence and also the intelligence of others. A stupid person usually holds himself in high regard and thinks of others in inferior terms. He is incapable of estimating other’s intelligence and is incapable of understanding actions and speech of an intelligent person. When his stupidity is pointed out or some advice is offered, a stupid will often take offense and can turn violent. This makes things very difficult indeed, as there is little that can be done to improve a stupid person.


Talk sense to a fool and he calls you foolish.
- Euripides, (480-406 BC)


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You can very easily convince a wise man that he has done something stupid, and the wise will thank you for correcting it. But it is almost impossible to convince a stupid that he is so, because he is unable to comprehend the reasons, feels insulted and erects barriers against any good advice. A stupid often blames situations or others for the bad outcomes of his stupid actions. He is full of hubris and superiority complex. The hallmark of stupidity is presence of rock solid beliefs, superstitions and such. A stupid is also very gullible and can be easily fooled, obviously. Wicked people often take advantage of stupid people and employ them to get whatever they want. It is very easy to manipulate a stupid person, and very difficult to show him that someone manipulated him.

Never argue with stupid people,they will drag you down to their level and then beat you with experience.
- Mark Twain

Since such people are incapable of excelling in anything, they turn to violence and crime to get whatever they are after. Jails are full of stupid people. Some are too stupid to even commit crimes and end up doing menial jobs. Smart criminals exist, but they don’t get caught and are often found making laws and ruling others instead. Stupid people cause harm, to self and to others. A majority of the suffering in this world is due to stupidity.


The difference between stupidity and genius is that genius has its limits.
- Albert Einstein

What causes stupidity? The causes are many, and some research has been done on this matter. Some of them are - genetic causes, diseases, malnutrition, bad parenting, drugs, bad nurturing and stupid company. However, people with extremely healthy bodies and brains who were brought up nicely in affluent families also display stupidity. It is not very fruitful to argue about the causes, the damage is done already and one should try to find a cure. Note that people with brain damage and mental retardation come under a different category, the category of patients. These are often incapable of performing simple tasks too and suffer from a disability. A stupid person is mostly a normal person and is fully functional.


Isn’t everyone differently capable? That term is only a polite and politically correct way of saying some people are more stupid than others. It has become a taboo to call someone stupid, for obvious reasons, people don’t like it and intelligent people want to avoid embarrassing situations that follow when you call someone stupid. Anyway, it doesn’t help to simply tag someone as stupid, he remains so, and usually becomes even more so as a result of resistance. So yes, there is a full spectrum of people ranging from extremely stupid to geniuses. Most of us fall somewhere in the middle of this bell curve. Where do we draw a line and start identifying someone as stupid? It is very difficult if not totally impossible to define a fixed criteria for stupidity. There are some attempts, such as IQ, which is just stupidity. An individual is a dynamic entity and his intelligence depends on many factors, times and situations. We have already discussed this. So stupidity is circumstantial. All one can do is identify some broad symptoms of it, as mentioned above, and if these symptoms persist in majority of situations and occur frequently then it is safe to conclude that the person in question is afflicted.


Think of how stupid the average person is, and then realize half of them are stupider than that.     
- George Carlin

 


There are some ways to diagnose oneself in cases where one’s stupidity is only borderline. If one is still able to get some hints, there is some hope that he will correct this affliction with some effort. If one is surrounded by people who amount to mostly nothing, have never achieved anything (material or intellectual), are good for nothing, their speech is limited to jokes and gossip and activities to eating and drinking, then one should start to suspect that he is one of them. Mostly intelligent people leave the company of a stupid, and in time he is left with people of his own kind. So if you are surrounded by stupids, its time to evaluate your own intelligence.


The realization of ignorance is the first act of knowing.
- Jean Toomer
If one finds himself failing in simple tests, incapable of learning simple tasks and if this happens repeatedly, one needs to sit down and think about it. If one finds himself getting into fights or troubles or in the grip of harmful habits, one needs to question it. If one finds that he is repulsed by arts, books, intelligent discussions, interviews with great people, documentaries, sciences and anything that needs thinking, one should surely conclude that he lacks enough intelligence. If one is not curious, questions nothing, stares in air when questions are posed and is dumbfounded by the activities of intelligent people, one should conclude that a revival of his Mind is needed.

In cases when the stupidity is harmless, why can’t one simply live his life happily? Yes, there are no compulsions to become intelligent or wise. Many people who are not so, live simple lives, are happy and are good citizens. However, it becomes a must to eliminate all traces of stupidity when you are on a path of knowledge, or even when you wish to achieve something of significance. Stupidity is a major obstacle and a tale tell sign of ignorance. The good news is you don’t need to become a math genius in order to get rid of ignorance. It is enough to develop some common sense, some wit, little bit of logical and critical thinking and most importantly an open mind.


How to cure stupidity? If one becomes aware of this affliction, it is not impossible to cure it. One must start with being humble. Surrender and accept that some improvement is needed. If you desire to progress on a path, the will and energy will be there. If you don’t have a path then you need to evaluate yourself anyway. A stupid is a rigid and ignorant person, so the obvious starting point is being open, malleable and innocent. Innocence is always a good place to start compared to ignorance.


The highest form of ignorance is when you reject something you don’t know anything about.
- Wayne Dyer

Help can be taken. Good teachers are mostly eager to teach anyone with enough patience, interest and willpower. It is easy to find a good teacher, a good student is rare. Books also help, start with light reading. Most importantly try to be with intelligent, wise and humble people. A stupid will avoid such people and will often ridicule them. You can do the reverse and get their favour. It doesn’t take long to become like them or to even surpass them. Stupidity converts into intelligence at an exponential rate. Its all very slow at the beginning, but as you gain knowledge, it picks up speed, because knowledge enables more knowledge and sharpens the intellect as a bonus. It feeds on itself and grows beyond limits very soon. 


Some more tricks to improve intelligence were discussed before.


Rigidity


It is an inability to change. One need not be very stupid in order to display rigidity. Often very intelligent people are also afflicted with rigidity. Of course, rigidity is a sign of stupidity, but the so called experts and authorities are most affected by it. It is characterized by an adamant behaviour, the person refuses to change his outdated or incorrect ideas, thinking, actions and refuses to give up irrational beliefs. This obviously causes problems when your goal is more knowledge.


Ignorance is always afraid of change.
- Jawaharlal Nehru

Rigidity is often seen in old age and is a sign of old age. Although one can also find some very malleable people even in old age. There can be many reasons for being rigid. Some of them are fear of ridicule, hubris, superiority complex, fear of loss of reputation, plain stupidity, fossilized beliefs and monetary gains. These are self explanatory, we have discussed them before in regard to beliefs.


How do I know if I am rigid? It is fortunately easy. If you are not also stupid, you will know in seconds. If you are inclined to meet and talk to people of only your “kind”, if you haven’t learnt anything new in years, if you often ridicule new ideas and new generation, if you are always adamant on doing some things in your own preferred way or if you cannot let go of any arguments no matter what, you do something always in same manner everyday, you never experiment, then you can suspect that your Mind is in grip of rigidity.


How to cure it? Be open minded, humble, in a posture of surrender, accepting but not believing. Try new things. Try new ideas, activities. Get to know people from outside your circle or profession. Kill a belief a day. There are many ways. And if you are intelligent, as the case would be most of the time, you will soon discover that you are progressing by leaps and bounds.


Confusion


Or lack of clarity, or overthinking or thinking which takes you nowhere. Confusion halts your knowledge acquisition process. It doesn’t matter if one is stupid or genius, it afflicts all. Confusion is caused by conflicting ideas, incoherent beliefs, lack of understanding, stupidity and rigidity. If you are confused about something, it is a sign that you are in grip of beliefs, and you lack solid experience. Too much theory, assumptions, study of texts without seeking corresponding experiences, blind faith on teachers, lack of logical and critical thinking abilities can cause confusion.


In the state of confusion, one tends to make wrong choices, and does less than optimal actions. So it is a must that one suspends all decisions till confusions are cleared. The only way to clear them is to gain more knowledge and experience.


Whenever a man does a thoroughly stupid thing, it is always from the noblest motives.
- Oscar Wilde


Fickleness


The inability of the Mind to stay at a particular subject for long. Such Minds are distracted easily and jump from one thing to another very quickly. They have short attentions spans, get bored easily and have no defined goals. However, such people are often very intelligent, curious and highly active. These qualities achieve nothing because they can’t accomplish much due to their fickleness.


Such people find learning a skill a difficult task, as it demands hours of concentration and can takes months and years. If they start learning, they leave it abruptly and attempt another skill, which they leave early too. They cannot think about an idea for very long, and their decisions are impulsive in nature. Obviously, such Minds are unfit for meditation or introspection, and it becomes difficult to progress for them.


There are some tricks to get hold of such monkey minds. First of all get rid of all distractions. When you are doing something, say learning or practicing, it must be the only task for you and there must be physical isolation from other things or people. Secondly, break down the task into tiny steps and resolve to finish a step everyday at any cost. Cultivate discipline, there are various methods for that, refer to books. Cultivate awareness of the contents of your Mind and your actions. As soon as you become aware that the Mind is taking you to some other matter, stop there for a few seconds, let the impulse come and go, and continue with your task at hand. This practice will slowly destroy the fickleness and you will become calm, steady, peaceful and super aware.


We are almost done with major afflictions of the Mind, and in the next article we will deal with the mother of all afflictions – the Ego. It is not really an affliction, but for a seeker it is necessary to know it in detail, because it can become a huge hurdle.

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