What does “smart” even mean?

April 30, 2021
Julia Daitz

New York City, New York, United States

Class of 2022

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What does smart even mean?

Our generation, specifically, has grown up in a seriously competitive learning environment. Nowadays, it's cool to be perceived as intelligent, and this on its own is a great thing. People should always celebrate intellect and curiosity. However, there is such a strong sense of competition in "being smart," and many, like myself, often do not feel "smart" enough. But what does being smart even mean? Many of us allow our intelligence to be defined by how easily we can grasp specific math problems; however, the brain is more complex than that. By definition, smart means showing a quick-witted intelligence. Intelligence, for that matter, means the ability to acquire and apply knowledge and skills. Doesn't everyone have the ability to acquire knowledge to a certain degree? What determines who's smart and who's not?

I've come to learn that being smart is subjective, similar to the idea that beauty lies in the eyes of the beholder. A talented musician spends years learning how to read and recognize notes; they develop excellent coordination and have an in-depth view of music that is hard for others to grasp. This same person finished with a C in chemistry. Are we still able to qualify them as bright? Perhaps in the context of music, but not in the chemistry classroom? It is easy to see how this logic is flawed. However, everyone inherently possesses it. When someone commits to a college, we are all guilty of searching for the school's acceptance rate and coming to a conclusion on their performance throughout their entire high school career. We may be, unknowingly, minimizing someone's years of hard work. School comes naturally to some; the system is designed for auditory learners who can remain focused for long periods. Therefore, it is no wonder that some thrive in the classroom and others do not.

I know I am smart. Maybe I am not able to focus for long periods like some of my peers. I struggle with finding motivation for topics that do not captivate me. My brain processes things differently than others, numbers confuse me, and sometimes I need to read the same passage several times before understanding it. Yet, culture is my intelligence. I am proud of my knowledge of music, languages, and countries, and movies. I am curious; I am outgoing, I put my heart and soul into the things I care about, I am proud of my ability to understand and empathize with others, and of my understanding of music.

When we live in a world where everyone is so focused on going above and beyond, it is so easy to feel like a failure. It would be best if you focused on your abilities rather than your flaws. Use that as fuel for the fire that is you and all that you are capable of. Strive to be kind and curious, not the most intelligent person in the room. In a world full of diversity, in terms of abilities, being perfect isn't possible. In reality, being clever means that you can come to terms with the fact that you don't know everything and won't know everything, but we care enough to acknowledge this. As Voltaire once said in his novel Candide, "Il faut cultiver Notre Jardin" translates to "we must cultivate our garden." Our "Jardin" is our knowledge, and we must cultivate and expand it through curiosity and passion because if intelligence means anything, it is a Jardin Bien cultiver.

Julia Daitz is a BBG from Manhattan Region and loves to play guitar, write articles, Taylor Swift, and keeping up with current events!

All views expressed on content written for The Shofar represent the opinions and thoughts of the individual authors. The author biography represents the author at the time in which they were in BBYO.

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