Gaia is the word for "unity-of-life-processes". The experiment here is to unify the various threads of voice and sense of self together into an undivided unity. Spirituality, economics, politics, science and ordinary life interleaved.

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Gaiawriter's Top Ten Ways To Increase Intelligence.

1. Engage complex forms of art, science and culture with your feelings and thoughts, recording what you notice. Classical music, great novels, galleries, museums, scientific education, and above all, the fine art of intellectual conversation - these are time honored ways to increase intelligence. For most of human history conversation has been the main human art form.

2. Seek patterns. Seek the essence. Seek the edges. Seek the extremes. Seek the grey areas. Seek to understand rather than to simply know a fact.

3. Simplify what you learn by talking it through with yourself or someone else.

4. Look at the teachers of your teacher. Whatever field of interest brings tears to your eyes, or makes you heart leap, or makes your belly flutter, find the key personalities of that field and look up their influences. Read their bibliographies. Scan their indexes. Listen to whose names they drop. Understanding intellectual influence in a field is key to sophisticated insight.

5. Explore the limits of the intellect. Through human history, intelligence has consistently failed to provide a reliable guide to wise action. Philosophy has not found answers but only more questions. So the key to increasing intelligence is to learn what intellect can and cannot do: these fields are known as hermeneutics, epistemology, phenomenology and metaphysics, however most mature spirituality traditions also include strong and valuable critique of intellectualism.

6. Own your emotional bias.
Don't fake a dispassion which only very few highly developed people have. Get emotional about your ideas and thinking. Define your biases and then test them out. If they fail, humbly accept the failure and move on to a new bias. Pretending you are above it all and have understood everything is a waste of precious time.

7. Honor tradition. Most intellectual rebels need therapy, not intelligence increase. The strongest and finest minds flower right in the heart of the great and unbroken intellectual traditions of the world. Whether you are Chinese or Peruvian, your tradition will include intelligent discourse somewhere. Find your tradition and honor it.

8. Settle for second best. We are all stupid in some areas and smart in others. The simplest approach is to embrace the fact that sometimes you are going to be dumb no matter how smart you are. The sight of a toddler educating a retired university professor about building blocks is always charming only so long as the professor does not strike a prententious pose of being above mere play.

9. Practice mental masturbation. The only difference between mental masturbation and genuine intellectual activity is that mental masturbation is done simply for the joy of it, not in service to some greater value. Mental masturbation is wonderful, inexpensive, harmless fun, and comes (sic) highly recommended by the greater thinkers of all time.

10. Study mathematics and Plato.

Why mathematics? Mathematics is the fundamental tool of science; knowing maths gives you new eyes to see thinking not as connections between physical qualities but as abstract living forms of reality.

Why Plato? Plato's dialogs are the heart of the entire Western intellectual tradition, the essence of the enterprise of philosophy, and the core of all ideas in politics, science, metaphysics, and many other fields. I suggest you start with the refined word-play of Protagoras or the fun sensuality of Symposium.

Warning! Reading Plato involves discovering for yourself that most of your thoughts are actually 23 centuries old and the fact that your deepest thoughts do not belong to you at all. You can expect from Plato nothing other than a profound intellectual shock. Time and again through history, Plato plants the acorns that later become oaks.

I admit now that I have deceived you, reader. In fact there is only one best method to increase intelligence, but most people are unable to apply that method for various reasons. I have broken the one method into nine suggestions, but the single key direct act of intelligence increase I have hidden from you.

Because the truth is that by applying the last of these ten ways to increase intelligence, you will automatically be applying the other nine. Studying mathematics and Plato has been the best way to increase intelligence for the last 23 centuries, and remains the pre-eminent way to increase intelligence today in spite of the Nintendo DS Brain Gym and Smart Drugs.

So, then:

1. Engage complexity with feelings and thoughts. The most complex cultural objects we possess remain Plato and Mathematics.

2. Seek patterns. The best expression of pattern is through number (mathematics) and dialog (Plato).

3. Simplify by talking things through. (Plato talks everything through; that's why they're dialogs and not essays.)

4. Look at who taught your teachers. The truth is that Plato taught your teachers. All of them? Find out for yourself.

5. Explore the limits of the intellect. The common experience has been that the limits of our intellects have been reached already and usually surpassed by others.

6. Own your emotional bias. If you react emotionally against the suggestion that Plato and mathematics are the best base possible for intelligence increase, then test your ideas out and come back to Plato and mathematics when you have failed enough.

7. Honor tradition. Traditionally Plato and mathematics are, along with the study of Latin, the main expressions of intellectal activity in the West. If something works better for you go for it.

8. Embrace being dumb. Few arenas of cultural activity are more humbling that Plato's philosophy, over which the generations have toiled, and mathematics, in which humankinds most abstract thoughts are expressed.

9. Practice mental masturbation. The greatest mental masturbator of all time, Socrates, lies within the pages of Plato. And, just for your own peace of mind, I do not recommend having sex with a mathematician; you might figure out why for yourself after studying the field.

10. Above all, study mathematics and Plato.

10. Above all, study mathematics and Plato.

10. Above all, study mathematics and Plato.

Did you get that intelligence increase tip I mentioned before?

10. Above all, study mathematics and Plato!

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