The Oort Project
Hey all, in an effort to return my blogging to a more creative outlet, and in an effort to work on my music making, I’ve started the Oort Project. Every day, I will create a ~2 minute long song named after and inspired by a major asteroid in the solar system. The blog is still under construction but you can already listen to the first piece, “65 Cybele”.
In my final reflection, I lied to you. I told you that in this class I learned how to write academically, that I discovered new ways of expression relating to the four outcomes that you put on the syllabus. Yes, I learned these things, but the most important thing I learned wasn’t on the syllabus, because I wrote that entire portfolio in the last two and a half hours, rushing over every section, taking no time to look over my work or put any real meaning into my words. It was a race to the finish, a classic college tale of staying up all night to make it to the deadline. Well, I finished the race alright. Like a distance runner sandbagging the entire race, and then sprinting at the very end just to look fast, I finished the race. I put off the assignment just like I do every assignment, and my punishment was the same as usual; I did a piss poor job.
But this time the consequences are different. This portfolio is 70% of my grade, and it’s going to be a pretty ugly 70%. Failing is different now, because I don’t have the luxury of excuses, or retakes, or trying to trick the teacher with a sob story. All I have is myself, and my will to seek out resources and finish my work. Maybe I’ll pass this class, and maybe I won’t. But I don’t really think I deserve to. I think what I hate more than this habit of mine is that it keeps working. I can waste my time until the end, and then pump out a half-baked essay that gets by because I know big words. Except now, it’s not going to work anymore. I wrote you the tiniest, feeblest paragraph in that final reflection. Like a sick gazelle at the back of the pack, only around to be the one caught by the lion. My essay was that sick gazelle. Manufactured in 45 seconds purely, completely, for the purpose of not failing the class. Just like the herd leaves it behind to live, I left that assignment behind just to pass. And you deserve better.
You, who have been an outstanding teacher to me this quarter. You, who challenged me as a writer in ways I’ve never even thought of before. You called me out on the bullshit parts of my essay that I knew were weak, and praised me for the good ideas I did have. You were insightful and inspiring, and I threw it down the drain. Did my writing improve? Sure. But not in the way it could have. Maybe I think a little bit more when I write an essay, but I still write them at the same time. 11:00 pm, an hour before the deadline. Shaking with adrenaline and energy drinks, beating myself up for not doing it earlier and praising myself for being so productive with it now. You and my classmates deserved better. What is the point of writing an essay that’s supposed to be an expression of my thoughts and beliefs if every damn time I just vomit up word salad to get a passing grade?
I considered editing it after I submitted it. Maybe you wouldn’t catch it, even though it was after the deadline. I could sneak in some more paragraphs, edit the rest a bit more, make it more substantial. But I’m not going to do that. The deadline was midnight, and this is supposed to be an accurate representation of the work I’ve done in this class. So fuck it. This IS an accurate representation of the work I’ve done. It’s incomplete, it’s forced, it’s rushed, and frankly, it’s shitty. How poetic that my final analysis of my work is of the same quality and nature as the work itself. And when I finished it, I screamed into my pillow. Partly because I was so overwhelmed that it was done, but mostly because I was so angry it took this long.
This is where I’m drawing the line. I’m not just changing for myself anymore. I’m going to do it for the teachers I constantly disappointed and the missed opportunities I squandered sleeping in on the weekends. I’m not going to lie to myself anymore, and I’m not going to lie to you either. You, my High School Calculus teacher, for whom I failed your tests despite all the chances you gave me to make it up and I made up stupid excuses for why I couldn’t just do my work. You, my Cross Country coach, who I told I ran over the weekend when I just sat at home and watched netflix. You, my Spanish teacher, for whom I constantly performed poorly in your class, because after 6 years I still can’t say a damn thing in Spanish. And finally, for You, my English 131 teacher, for whom I was so inspired and impressed by; and yet in the ten weeks I spent in your class, I was never able to write a paper I was proud of.
To all of you. I’m sorry. I’m not going to lie anymore. I’m not going to write sick and dying gazelles anymore. I’m going to write fierce, opinionated, well researched lions. I’m going to do my work, because one day, it won’t be just me that depends on me getting my shit together.
i love this little feeling whenever I do something that I didn’t think I could do, something I wasn’t smart enough to figure out or that I was too lazy to work through. every time I pick up a practical skill, like driving in the snow, and I realize it’s not as complicated as I thought, or every time I realize how to do a math problem, like integrating and differentiating functions, that I thought I’d never get, it doesn’t just make me think “this wasn’t as hard as I thought” - it makes me think “maybe I can do this. maybe i am just as smart as him or her.” and most importantly, it makes me think - “maybe I can accomplish just as much as him, or her, or anyone else.”
it’s a tiny thing, but it adds up and I feel a little bit stronger each time it happens.
I think it’s really interesting how intelligence is measured and what value it’s given as an attribute of people. IQ tests claim to be a metric to give a rough idea of how intelligent someone is, but what does that really mean? An IQ of around 66 corresponds to “moderate mental retardation” - and before I go on, i want to make the point that being mentally retarded isn’t a simple thing at all. It’s not a yes/no condition; there are as many different degrees of it as there are people in the world. For instance, my uncle is retarded, but he can dress himself, make his breakfast, take the bus to his job, and come back home. His conversation options are a bit limited, but he’s not the stereotypical hand flailing, wheel-chair bound person that most teenagers associate with the word “retard”.
Okay, so if intelligence is a gradient, and 66 is moderate retardation, what does that say about someone with an IQ of, say, 150? Such an IQ corresponds to being “highly gifted” (in the same way as retardation, “giftedness” is also a highly variable spectrum). For the person with an IQ of 150, the average person has a score that is 2/3 of theirs. But for the average person, a retarded person has an IQ that is 2/3 of theirs. Does this mean that the difference between a retarded person and an “average” person intellectually is the same between that average person and a gifted person? If so, do average intelligence people seem to think and act in a mentally impaired way to highly gifted people? To put it bluntly, do average people seem retarded to geniuses?
I’m going to move away from the IQ analysis and move on to some less number heavy stuff, but before I do, some personal thoughts on the whole concept of the “Intelligence Quotient”;
1. Although I used it as a quick and dirty method of illustrating my point, I think IQ is mostly bullshit. “Intelligence” is such an unbelievably complex concept that even giving a name to it dumbs it down. Trying to encapsulate it quantitatively is ridiculous. Trying to make it conform to a single number on a scale is criminally insane. That’s not to say that it doesn’t generally tend to conform roughly with how “smart” we think someone is; I just think that putting a number on “smart” is inherently impossible from the beginning. Intelligence can manifest itself in all sorts of creative, analytical, mathematical, sensory, musical, artistic, empathetic, etc ad nauseum ways, and a single number just doesn’t do it justice.
2. I personally have a distaste for organizations like Mensa that restrict membership based on IQ percentile. The implied standard for Mensa is being in the top 1% of intelligence, since it’s the top 1% of IQ. But like I said, this is a crappy way of measuring intelligence (if there even is a good way) and so it all just seems like one big ego trip to me.
3. I don’t ever plan on getting an IQ test. I feel like I won’t be happy with whatever I get; if it’s in the standard deviation, it’ll make me think I’m just average and my intelligence is always limited. If it’s far below, I’ll think here’s something wrong with me, and if it’s far above it’ll make me feel uncomfortable about the whole thing. I don’t want to know what I would get and I think I’m better off not knowing.
Okay. Let’s move on to a less mathy look.It’s weird to me that intelligence, “smart-ness” is treated like a trait equal to any other; Sally is really strong. Fred is really fast. Ian is really intelligent? If our intelligence is what defines us as reasoning, self aware beings, are more intelligent people more “human”? Are smarter people somehow farther removed from the roots of animalism, of being mindless beasts? At this point I’m just thinking, and honestly I really don’t think any of this has any merit. It’s just an interesting line of thought to me.
I guess it just seems like we measure intelligence in two different ways. The first is in a simple, “oh, she’s really smart, she got a 94 on the exam” way. You might think someone is smarter than you in that way, but they aren’t any more or less enlightened or “human”. Mental work just comes faster to them, like an overclocked processor on a computer. This is how I see most of my friends who are smarter than me.
The second, and more morally ambiguous way we measure intelligence is in terms of reasoning and self reflection; “oh, he’s a genius. he’s thinking on a totally different level. i couldn’t even understand what he’s talking about.” This is how I tend to feel about 2 or 3 people I know. In this sense, it’s not just that they’re doing the same work faster; they’re running a totally different operating system.
I don’t really know. This is a really tricky topic and it’s sort of painful emotionally to think about. I don’t mean for any of this to be a serious argument; it’s all just musings and thoughts. Intelligence is vague, confusing, and ultimately impossible to specifically and exactly define, so I hope it didn’t seem like I tried to do so.
I can’t think of how to end this post. Have a nice December!