Too Clever For The World

When do things become too clever? When is it time to stop being too clever?

Most places that have cultures that embrace progress also fully believe in becoming more clever. This usually is through encouraging further education and rewarding intelligence by paying more for elite positions. It is obviously a great thing in our civilization to be incredibly smart. The progression of the centuries shows that civilization is built upon the backs of incredibly smart people.

There is another way of looking at this however. In some Eastern traditions (like Tao) cleverness is seen as a trait that will only invite hardship.

From a Western traditional view, this doesn’t make any sense. How can being smarter be bad? How can new inventions possibly lead to trouble?

My own personal view on intelligence is that too much can be harmful to the individual. This is based on the general observation and some more direct experiences with really smart people. The consensus of these experiences is that while that person may possess a great deal of smarts, they are usually really lacking in other areas. My uncle, said to be incredibly smart by everyone that knew him, died as a young father because he drowned after falling out of a small boat. He did not know how to swim and didn’t think to put on a life preserver.

My Dad has told me several times that he was so bright but had no “common sense”. Not having common sense is what I have observed of others as well. Or perhaps their social skills were incredibly bad. The point is that it is very rare that a genius is going to be well balanced. Too much focus on one thing leads to other things falling apart.

WikiPedia image (yin and yang article)
This brings us to the bigger picture. In the “Tao” way of looking at things (based on my interpretation), cleverness brings lots of negative things with it. In the world view of balance, any positive is going to cause a negative. Any push to control something is going to force that thing to push back. Cause and effect are directly linked and going in both directions. Hence the classic image of yin and yang come to mind. Two sides always struggling against each other trying to find balance. The more one side moves, the more the other side moves as well.

So, for example,  if you use cleverness to suppress the evil in the world, it will only become that much more evil. There is no way to find a balance until the realization hits that every action is going to cause an equal and opposite reaction. Sounds a bit scientific that.

The more complicated we make our world, the more likely it will eventually collapse. This is true both at a micro and macroscopic view.

So what advice can you possibly derive if you deem that things have become too clever?

Be still
Take no action
Action will take care of itself
Try not to think about things being separate
Think of everything being the same
Think of it being just you
And then you will see
Nothing needs to be done
Because it is already being done
Wait for the cue
And play your role

That’s my attempt at capturing something that cannot be captured. It’s like a slippery fish. A wiser man would let the fish go straight off.

This post was originally citrite.org but I decided it belonged here.  It is more personal stuff along the lines of what enlightenment means to me.  Being a true observer shows that any action will cause a ripple.  The tough aspect is to see what this ripple will do.

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