Tag Archives: Ignorance

Stupidity Sucks (and What it Feels Like to Be Stupid)

Stupid: slow of mind; given to unintelligent decisions or acts, acting in an unintelligent or careless manner; lacking intelligence or reason”

-The Damn Dictionary (Merriam-Webster if you’re being appropriate)

This article right here sums up a fascinating phenomena: most people think they’re above average. Most people think they’re good drivers. Most people think they’re smarter than average. Most people think they’re more attractive than average. And so on. This doesn’t sound too bad at first, but once you consider the meaning of the word “average” it becomes much more interesting. Average, in terms of whatever you’re talking about, would be in the exact middle: 50% of people are below average and 50% of people are above average. So why, as the article says, 95% of professors think they’re better than their peers. And, as I’ll get to, why do some people think they have a higher-than-average musical insight when they’re clearly stupid?

I don’t really want to get into the why here because the article and all the information it links to should illuminate why. Given information like this I usually turn to introspection: I’m obviously guilty of this in some form (if I thought I was an exception to this then I’d be putting myself above average in regards to not placing myself above average) but am I even aware of it? Are there certain things I’m awful at that I think I’m good at? Objectively? And more importantly, what does this feel like, the inability to gauge your actual abilities? The main question I’m trying to get at is (even though skill and intelligence aren’t the exact same thing), “What does it feel like to be stupid?”

One way to discover how you’re stupid is to find someone or something that makes you feel stupid. Luckily, I know a few of these people and it’s amazing to feel stupid! I think the key is to find a topic that you want to be knowledgeable with and have someone blow you out of the water with their depth of knowledge and mode of thinking. It has to be a shared interest too: I can talk to a sports fan and not know anything they’re talking about but this doesn’t necessarily make me stupid because I don’t care about the knowledge in the first place. Perhaps if I wanted to, I could be wiser than they are on the topic of sports, but that doesn’t make me smart or stupid. That’s just ignorance.

A few people allow me to feel stupid in something I’ve always been passionate about and think thought I was intelligent in: music. I’ve always liked music (but what soulless creature doesn’t like music?) and thought I could “read between the lines” and see things the artist meant to convey — or didn’t intend to convey — and appreciate the complexities of the music in a way most people couldn’t: I’m smarter than the average person when it comes to musical comprehension. At least that’s what I thought two months ago.

After our work shift a few of us began hanging out and listening to music. Led by my supervisor’s supervisor (I’m not sure how else to explain this without explaining the hierarchy of my workplace), he would allow two or three of us regular employees to ride around in his work-provided Chevy Malibu. Sometimes our immediate supervisor would also join us. We would just aimlessly drive around property and listen to the music he selected for us. Most of these songs pieces were well outside of my comfort range by default. I’m talking classical music, I’m talking choral music, I’m talking strange chanting music that made me feel like I was having a panic attack: everything from Brahms to some dude with a guitar from Canada. Let’s also not forget Tom motherfucking Waits who is apparently a musical and lyrical genius whom I never appreciated before.

It wasn’t just this wide range of music that made me feel dumb: it was also his interpretations of the songs. It was his depth of insight in regards to the music, lyrics, instrumentation, song structure, etc. He would walk us through a song and tell us what the song meant to him and how everything supported his perspective. This would also involve body language as well. Well into a song and without saying a word he would toss his arms up in total amazement at something in the song. He’d shake his head as if thinking, “There is no way this music can be this good!” Sometimes the rest of us could understand what had blown his mind away, but other times there was nothing obvious about what had inspired him so, his mind seemingly making connections between music and self without any explanation. I would always smile at his musical enthusiasm. Here was a guy so taken away by the music he could barely contain his emotions and it was something to admire.

Here’s a specific example: “Shine On You Crazy Diamond (Parts 1-5)”. The first song on Pink Floyd’s album Wish You Were Here. (This the example I went with because I assume most people are aware of the band Pink Floyd, and so might be aware of the song “Wish You Were Here,” and hence the album it came from, Wish You Were Here, and might’ve possibly came across “Shine On You Crazy Diamond (Pts. 1-5)”!) I like Wish You Were Here, but it wasn’t ever my favorite Floyd album. I’m more a Dark Side of the Moon guy myself (I find the album “Speaks to Me” and allows me to “Breathe (In the Air)” to make a really shitty pun…), but he totally sold the song — and the entire album — to me! I now have a greater appreciation for Wish You Were Here.

I’ll try to paraphrase how he explained the song to us: he pointed out the guitar around the 4:30 minute mark was “screaming in pain” about something, and how the part that came after it (6:30ish) had the exact same notes but were much more passive, as if the guitar had sort of accepted the pain of whatever and was okay with it. Like if you had enough pain in life you adapt; it becomes a background type of pain that you deal with and accept and it simply becomes a part of you. Still pain, but pain you don’t even acknowledge. Something about how no matter what your talent is (in regards to Syd Barrett here) the machine (the world itself, society, etc.) will still chew you up, spit you out, and incorporate your talent into itself. It’ll steal your gifts, trivialize them, and ruin what was so special about you in the first place. Elaborations on being blown by the steel breeze and eventually riding the steel breeze: what did all of that mean? Was it about growing older? Or being cruelly carved by the world around you? Losing the innocence of your childhood, how your dreams betray you, and about twenty or thirty other layers of understanding that were mostly invisible to me.

This was basically me:

So bombarded with all of this high-level elaboration on a song I’ve heard countless times while never piecing any of it together or thinking deeply about it all was making me feel rather stupid. Luckily I was able to give some preschooler-tier wisdom about how “Wish You Were Here” fades into “Shine On You Crazy Diamond (Pts. 6-9)”: maybe the wind at the beginning of the song was depicting the steel breeze itself! Teeheehee! I felt like a kid telling Einstein that space was big and dark or something after he elaborated on General Relativity. Just pointing out what was already obvious to everybody. I was reading preschool picture books and this fucking dude was reading The Odyssey. I clearly felt stupid, but not only that, I felt the feeling of being stupid.

I suppose by feeling stupid you see what is possible, how deep your understanding can go if only you could ever make it to that level. You understand that your knowledge hasn’t peaked and that you still have a massive mountain to climb, especially with music: I’ve always viewed music as the most intuitive and easily understood art because it is so basic and visceral to the human mind. We all know how songs can remind us of seasons, people, events, and we attach memories to music firmly as opposed to other arts. (The only exception is smell: smells seem to be a direct link to past memories. I can smell a certain perfume and it will instantly remind me of making out with a certain girl at a high school party, as awful as that is.) Music is intuitive. Music is visceral. Music is something that happens deep within a person. Music is universal. I guess I’m saying that music should be relatively easy to understand and here I am feeling stupid over that. So now I feel immensely stupid.

I find that being stupid doesn’t feel like stupidity though. To me it feels like laziness. In my mind I know that if I wanted to understand “Shine On You Crazy Diamond” with the depth of understanding that my supervisor’s supervisor does I could understand it; it’s just that I don’t really want to right now. It’s work. I don’t feel like doing work. There’s other songs I’m listening to and other bands, and well, I don’t have the time. Analyzing something like that requires me to look up the lyrics and process the music along with the words. Ugh. While I know that I can, I don’t want to. That’s what being stupid feels like. It feels like laziness. I can do it, I just don’t want to.

This makes me ask the question if stupidity only feels like laziness or if they’re actually the same thing. Maybe that’s all stupidity is: you just don’t want to make the effort to understand something even if you are perfectly capable of it. Or maybe stupidity feels like laziness only so your brain can further let you believe you’re not actually stupid, you’re just lazy! Like a fancy form of confirmation bias. To really hit the point home, I’m going to end this post right here. Right on the verge of possibly making some deep connection between stupidity and laziness, intelligence and effort, I’m going to wrap it up. It sounds too complicated. It’s too much to think about right now. Maybe I’ll think about it later. I’m probably ranting anyways. I can always write about the topic later. I think I did good enough here anyways. But I’m not stupid though…

Coworkers Suck: the Ignorant Know-it-All

Hopefully as soon as you read the title you conjured up a mental image of a coworker whom is the perfect candidate for the Ignorant Know-It-All. And hopefully as you read this you are nodding your head constantly in agreement as I whine about this certain type of person. We all know them and we all loathe them: the person at work who is constantly telling people how to do their job, and even though they are in the same job position as you are, they seem to act like they’re part of middle management and know everything. Making matters worse, they don’t actually seem to have any clue as to what needs to happen at work even though they act like they do. I recently started a new job and it took me a total of one week to run into TWO of these people. TWO! Lucky me! I’m sure there are a few more, but whatever, they must be really low-key about being jackasses. These workers Suck, and they Suck for some very simple reasons: no one likes to be ordered around and if you are ordered around, you’d hope you wouldn’t be ordered around to do some very stupid things. The Ignorant Know-It-All Sucks.

The part of this person being an ignorant know-it-all is very important. Similar worker archetypes that lack the ignorant aspect are the know it all and the asskisser/brownoser. These people are bad enough with their constant ass-kissing of management and telling everyone what to do. But truth be told, I’m sort of a know it all, and I can understand why people end up being that way at work. When you work around people who are mostly dipshits — your co-workers and the general public — you start to get frustrated with how people work begin to correct and overcorrect your fellow dipshit workers. Yeah you probably come across as an ass, but if you keep it low-key enough, maybe people won’t hate you as much? I figure you might be an insufferable piece of shit, but you still have good intentions of helping your coworkers find the best way to do a job. This is what the ignorant know-it-all starts with, but they take it to a whole new level of insufferability by not knowing what they hell they’re talking about.

The ignorant know-it-all is just like the standard run-of-the-mill know-it-all in that they have to correct everyone on every method that occurs in the workplace, but instead of them being a know-it-all and being correct in their recommendations, they fail miserably by suggesting and ordering really dumbass things that undermine the work process. Making matters worse, they think they’re a wizard, brainiac genius, future CEO, who are God’s gift to the workplace so they’re not even aware of how terrible their suggestions are. (For further reading, look up the dunning-kruger effect.) Everyone hates them and doesn’t want to work with them, but they don’t get it. And I don’t know how you’re supposed to tell them in a polite way to fuck off, so you just end up silently dealing with these overbearing assholes.

What bothers me most about these people is their seeming inability to put together any sort of complex process in their minds. When the ignorant know-it-all suggests something, it might sound good on the surface, but upon even slightly thinking about the issue, their suggestion will obviously undermine the work process one, two, or more steps away. What might solve the primary issue at hand will ruin the work process further down the line. For example, workers are limited in the workplace and moving workers from one line of work always will take workers away from another line of work. Job one might be dependent upon job two. I unload cargo aircraft containers that hold a bunch of packages and we load them into large cardboard boxes. People have to make the boxes (job one) for us to load the packages into (job two). In this example, the ignorant asshole will suggest, upon seeing that we’re not unloading the containers fast enough, might order (even though he isn’t a supervisor) some of the box making dudes to help unload containers. Well, it doesn’t take a genius to realize if you cripple the box making process, eventually we won’t have boxes to unload the packages into! If you’re smart you might realize that there might be enough boxes to finish the job — and you might be right — but the ignorant asshole doesn’t care about that and will move people even if it will cause all work to come to a screeching halt because of not being able to put actions and consequences together.

It never even has to be as complex as moving workers either. It might be telling coworkers to use a less efficient process even though they think it’s better, or by telling people how to do a job differently even if it doesn’t have any negative effect. Some people just have their own way of doing a job that works fine, but they will still insist that you do it their way. It might be them having a sense of urgency when there really isn’t any reason to hurry. It entails all sorts of unnecessary crap these people do just to seem smart, important, superior, or to appear to be a “good worker” to management. They might take care of less important matters first (like sweeping) while ignoring more important stuff (like helping a customer). These people Suck for very obvious reasons: they’re know-it-alls but they are ignorant about their ignorance. They go around and tell people what to do, how to do it, or when to do something when it’s one of the dumbest suggestions you could think of and have no idea about how stupid they are being. You can’t tell them to fuck off because then you’d lose your job. They probably won’t get fired because they’re such a “go-getter” sort of person: even if they’re dumb and annoying they’re a good worker and are reliable. Every workplace has these wonderful people, and this is probably a large part of why people hate going into work even if we don’t recognize it. We have to deal with the damn ignorant know-it-all and it Sucks.