Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Smart Enough to be Dumb

There are times when I wish I was either noticeably smarter or dumber -- sometimes I feel like I'm right in the middle of a hole in the middle. People smarter than me clearly understand what's going on, and can speak about it with that knowledge. And people dumber than me don't expect to understand things, so they can rattle on as well, secure in their unshakable convictions.

But I find that I can only really talk about things that I understand, and only discuss them to the limits of that understanding. A lot of people I deal with regularly have clearly mastered the art of using jargon in place of deep knowledge, which I've never been good at -- I can't grapple with the signs unless I actually understand the signifiers.

People tell me I come across as very knowledgeable at my day job, and I've always had the sense that I'm very plausible in conversation -- even when I'm not sure of something, people think I know what I'm talking about, as long as I can keep talking -- but it doesn't feel that way from here. I'm reading yet another book that's explaining CDSes and CDOs, and, once again, I have to sit and think about them for a while until I sort-of understand what they actually are -- and whatever understanding I do manage to achieve will disappear soon enough when I close the book. (The same thing happens with the laws of thermodynamics and other similar technical details -- I recognize them when I come across them again, but have to recreate my limited understanding each time.)

The Wife mentions that she thinks I'm smart, every so often -- not too often, of course, since I'm plenty self-absorbed enough, thank you -- but I've always hoped that wasn't the case. There's so much that takes so much hard thinking to get the vague gist of, that I sincerely hope that the real movers and shakers of this world -- from Ben Bernanke to Stephen Hawking to Angela Merkel -- really do understand all of this stuff much more clearly, and are all much, much smarter than I am. It would be really depressing otherwise, in so many ways.
Listening to: Ida Maria - Everybody's Always Alone
via FoxyTunes

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