Humor Non-Fiction posted October 26, 2011

This work has reached the exceptional level
A descriptive, not prescriptive, definition


by AlvinTEthington

An answer to the question is embedded herein!
Intelligent? Yes, people tell me that I am. Brilliant? I even get that. Genius? Well, it's been tough since Mom died...

I have lived amongst the intelligentsia, the cognoscenti, and the other pretentious names for people who think they are better than others for most of my life. For a while, I thought that, too.

By academic standards, I do quite well. I have a Bachelor's degree with Highest Honors from a brain- train college, a Master's Degree with Honors from an Ivy League university, and I have done all the work except the dissertation for my doctorate. Hey, enough is enough! I even teach poetry that doesn't rhyme here on FanStory. (However, I am branching out--I am teaching two courses in rhymed poetry in December. Did I mention that marketing was part of being intelligent?)

I have learned some things in my life and I would like to impart my wisdom to you. (Isn't that what we intelligent people are supposed to do?)

My mentor was a genius. I think he knew at least twenty if not thirty languages. He was educated at William and Mary as well as Harvard and taught at Yale. He was even considered for the presidency of a brain-train college. His death in 1983 was a crushing blow to me. He was, without a doubt, one of the most brilliant men I have ever known.

My father was also brilliant, yet he suffered from intense depression. He managed to be so well liked in spite of his mental illness that people were reluctant to run against him for public office.

I learned much from these two men. They were both consummate Southern gentlemen. Politeness was important to them. They never talked down to someone. I can remember my father quietly explaining the intricacies of agricultural law to uneducated farmers. I can remember my mentor patiently lecturing to undergraduate students.

One of the other characteristics they shared was compassion for others, which was shown in their ability to learn from almost anyone. My father was a voracious reader, often preparing for his adult Sunday School class with centuries old learned commentaries. My mentor always listened with rapt attention to his students' original and sometimes quite outrageous ideas.

What is the difference between pompous people and my father and my mentor? My father and my mentor knew that intelligence, even brilliance and genius, is the knowledge that one has much to learn. Truly brilliant people know they do not know everything and need to learn more.

What I also learned from the ability of my father and my mentor to learn from anyone is that true intelligence, brilliance, and genius is the ability to put together disparate bits of information in new ways. Creativity is the mark of intelligence. What pompous people have is book-learning.

In short, my father and my mentor taught me that intelligence is the ability to learn from the world about them. We would be well taught to follow their advice.

So you think you're clever? writing prompt entry
Writing Prompt

You can do this in up to 500 words, using any form of PROSE. No poetry. Also see inside...


I went to Oberlin College; my mentor was up for the presidency of Swarthmore College. My mentor was John Boswell, Chair of the History Department at Yale; my father was Alvin Thomas "Curly" Ethington.

The definition of intelligence is in the last paragraph. The whole essay explains how I employ that definition. (Apparently, at least from one review, that wasn't clear.)
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