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Determining a person's true worth - R.H. Joseph

It has come to my attention that creativity, intellect and learning are often perceived to be synonymous. They are not.

The first is ubiquitous in its distribution and egalitarian in its accessibility. The second is also innate but qualitatively disparate in dispersal. The third, learning, exists independent of the individual and remains in a state of flux. Verily, even E=MC", long presumed an absolute, is currently the subject of contentious reexamination.

If creativity (not talent!) is as I have described it, how do we avail ourselves of its benefits?

In columns past I have written of the reliance upon ritual among Buddhists and Taoists to induce a state of spontaneity in those estranged from its illuminating radiance. Spontaneity is recognized as synonymous with unbounded creativity.

(By the way, Taoist is the common spelling but the word is pronounced and sometimes spelled Daoist. As long as we're on the subject, Tofu is pronounced and sometimes spelled Dofu and Peking is pronounced and now always spelled Beijing. Don't try to make sense of it, just go with the flow like any good Daoist.)

To appreciate unbounded creativity, attend to the behavior of children. Neither intellect nor education contribute to their carefree reverie. Such creativity is universal; we are born with it; it is our nature.

Unfortunately, the ability to revel in the state and profit from its limitless vision is impeded to a degree commensurate with the abandonment of spontaneity.

And profit we can. Who is more likely to succeed in life, an individual incapable of seeing more than a single solution to a problem or one capable of perceiving the situation from a multitude of perspectives? (Buddhists and Daoists aver spontaneity is synonymous with wisdom.)

Intellect is different. One may be possessed of rare intelligence yet sadly limited in the capacity to employ it due to an insufficiency of wisdom, a lack of insight or imagination.

In one of his autobiographies the great American physicist Richard Feynman tells of an extremely intelligent student who knew the solution to every question for which an answer had already been established. Alas, he was incapable of innovative work.

Conversely, the guy who's peaked at menial labor may be infinitely creative within the limits of his intelligence.

Contrast "We've always done it this way" with "I've got a better idea." Clearly, such conflicts occur regardless of the intellectual acumen of the protagonists.

Empirical knowledge is not synonymous with wisdom. The years do not render you wise.

When next you contemplate "The eyes are windows to the soul," think of the common laborer with the sparkling eyes. What is it you see in them? Whence his depth of understanding?

You may find it interesting that as Buddhists and Daoists equate spontaneity with wisdom so do they find it synonymous with quiescence.

Though existential angst does not differentiate between a brilliant man and a dullard, the incandescent eyes of the spontaneous belie the ubiquity of this allegedly human condition. The spontaneous, the infinitely creative, are at peace regardless of their intellectual capacity.

(People often misunderstand the famous Buddhist dictum "Life is suffering." It has nothing to do with banging your knee on the coffee table or having your wisdom teeth pulled. It is intended to be contrasted with the quiescence of others, an enticement to those seeking release from the burden of the aforementioned angst.)

Finally, there is learning. This is the material with which the creative fashion the future. It may be acquired empirically through life experience, or through the acquisition of received opinion, via books for example.

Most importantly, received knowledge, like the mud bricks of Bam, is too often employed to create seemingly impenetrable walls until devastated by the earthquakes of innovation.

To judge oneself inadequate by virtue of an insufficiency of learning is doubly foolish. The books are there if you want to read them and the knowledge within is fluid, the truths paradigmatic rather than absolute.

An individual's worth is not determined by intellect but by how it is nurtured. Does it flourish within a context of spontaneity or is it constrained by an inflexible commitment to orthodoxy?

R.H. Joseph is a longtime employee of the News Daily. His column appears on Wednesdays. He may be reached at (770) 478-5753, ext. 252, or by e-mail at rjoseph@news-daily.com.