Tuesday, April 26, 2005

Of Intellectuals

Geez, I brought the wrong book to study. I took Business Strategy, instead of Financial Strategy. But my notes are all Financial Strategy. Urgh. I should learn to pack up the night before, rather than rush in the morning. This is the result of being messy :P

Anyhow, I met up with Leanne last Friday, to catch up since she happens to be in KL, something that rarely happens. While we were chatting away in a coffee place overlooking a park, the topic of being 'intellectual' came up (or was it a phone conversation when this topic came up?). She says that some people are just intellectual, the read intellectual stuff, they talk intellectual stuff. And there is also this preference of mine for intellectual women. She said in the pursuit of self improvement, she reads up on these so-called intellectual stuff. But she feels that some people have it easier, it seems natural to them. At a magazine store, she picked up a women's magazine and told me she would have to disappoint me by not picking up a more serious magazine to read on her trip home. Of course I said that is all nonsense and everyone can read whatever they want.

What is being intellectual? By definition, being intellectual is showing a high degree of intellect, the ability to reason and partaking in activities that require exercise of the intellect. So is debating an intellectual pursuit? Is writing an intellectual pursuit? Is poetry an intellectual pursuit? I say yes to all, because there isn't really a hard and fast rule to what is it being intellectual.

Many people make the mistake of pigeonholing so-called intellectuals as individuals that discuss and know a lot about current affairs,economics,politics,history, goes around quoting philosophers and what nots. I think that's all hogwash. There is much more to intellectualism that just merely reading up and spewing out facts and opinions. Like what my buddy Aida told me yesterday, everyone can do coffee shop talk, but doing it is much harder.

Which brings me to one of my pet peeves. I feel some people just try to hard to be seen as an intellectual. No, I'm not against people who are into self-improvement. I encourage that in fact, I used to tell my team that there is no harm in understanding more of our complicated world because it helps us see things clearer and perhaps, one day we can make things better. What I'm talking about is how some people just can't hatch it. No matter how hard they try, they come across as fake. There is no genuine interest or drive in knowing and understanding the issues at hand. You may think I'm making a sweeping statement, but I've seen enough of such characters who look and sound good but hollow inside. They write and speak of issues like they know it all, but when you analyse, it is all written with pretense of knowledge only. Or the write things so complicated, no one in hell knows what on earth are they writing about (Note : you can write complicated stuff but if your base is not strong, it shows). Or try so hard arguing for something or expressing an opinion when it is a non-issue or too myopic in perspective.

I've been labelled as an intellectual being by many but let me tell you this. It is not a bad label but I'm just someone normal (ok, some may beg to differ but please hold your tongue :P) that happens to know some stuff, and someone that can reason and argue, and someone that would concede if wrong. It comes naturally enough because I happen to care. When I look at issues around the world, I worry, I ponder and I wonder how things can be better. Some may say I'm nuts to think of morbid thoughts of euthanasia on Monday mornings but I think of things like that because I care. It may be for fun sometimes, I just like to ask questions to myself (or if you are unlucky, I will throw you my questions and thoughts via email/IMs). It is always fun to stimulate my mind. We tried stimulating that with the younger ones, but many sees it as a chore. Or something difficult. Or something that can be used to impress. Like what my then bald headed co-dictator used to say, they just don't live the life.

So to the question on why my preference or non-preference of certain individuals when it comes to their level of 'intellectualism', let's just say I don't do pretenders. I may be wrong, I may be biased but that is how it stays, unless they show me otherwise. I prefer genuine individuals. So read all the glossy magazines you want. It may not be impressive, but at least you enjoy it. Read good books to nourish your soul and mind. The topic is immaterial. Do what interest you and give it your best shot.

Being superficially intellectual is easy. But what separates those who know and care are the desire to learn, improve and feel (if possible). No one knows everything. No one is right or wrong. But if you want to come across with your credibility intact, I suggest you just be yourself.

"People don't talk about the soul very much anymore. It's so much easier to write a resume than to craft a spirit. But a resume is a cold comfort on a winter night, or when you are sad, or broke, or lonely, or when you've gotten your test results and they are not so good" - Anna Quindlen

I still have much to do.


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