Friday, January 18, 2008

The Only Thing More Difficult than Being a Genius is Trying to Reason with One

I used to know a guy who received an all-expenses paid pass into a Ivy League graduate program when he was only 20.

He had previously earned a perfect score on his SATs, as well as perfect marks on his GREs.

He seldom left his apartment, never listened to music, and had a difficult time relating to people and animals.


Bobby Fischer was born in Chicago, Illinois in 1943, the son of a Jewish immigrant. He taught himself to play chess when he was 6 years-old, was a chess champion by the age of 13, and in 1972 he became the first American to win the world championship in over a century.

He died yesterday in Iceland, where he lived in a sort of self-imposed exile: emerging only to occasionally offer anti-American and anti-semitic remarks, even responding to the September 11 attacks in New York City by terming the event "wonderful news."

His IQ was purported to be upwards of 180. That is to say: off the charts.

My five-year-old nephew enjoys reading, writing stories, playing cowboys and Indians, and watching Sponge Bob.

He's a well-rounded little boy with an active imagination: acting out stories he makes up as he goes along, and insisting that he be referred to only by that day's alter ego (Lone Ranger, Flash, Mr. Incredible, Deerslayer, etc.) whenever it's play time.

He cracks jokes with his grandparents, leans down to button up his little step sister's winter coat, and kisses his baby cousin on the head, asking to hold him.

Necessity all but forced him to learn to pronounce "Afghanistan" when he was two-years-old, and by the age of four he was taking on his Papaw in Bobby Fischer's sport.

And my nephew always won: but then again, he was playing by his rules, moving every piece in whichever direction — and for however many spaces he saw fit.

"Hey, T, do you want to play chest?" he asks me just about every time I visit home.

[He thinks "chess" is actually called "chest."]

"Sure," I say. "But how 'bout if this time you let me win?"

He laughs, running towards the hand-carved board my parents keep near the bay window of their small, Midwestern home.


Pamela said...

a challenge to keep things in perspective - when it comes to rearing extremely bright children.

I know some super intelligent people who are no fun to be around.

Jonas said...

I belonged to Mensa for a few years but quit because I found that a great many members shall I put it? skills.

It wasnt just a gut response. Mensans are acutely aware that studies have shown that high-IQ individuals, as a group, are not particularly "successful." You can be too smart for your own good, I suppose.

I loved chess as a child...but my father always beat me (I loved him all the more for that).

Eli said...

Really nice story, well writ. I hadn't heard the Fischer news yet. When I took up chess late in life my best friend liked to always say to me "good at chess, bad at life", haha.

So I gave up chess...

disgruntled world citizen said...

i learned how to play chess because of a girl. the girl is long gone, but i enjoy a game from time to time. oh, and i've never won a game of chess. ever. i held my own against an 11 year old once, but he beat me. ah, well.

M@ said...

I just read Jonathan Gardner's Theory of Multiple Intelligences and thought it was wonderful, though he could have credited Daniel Goleman a bit more for his work with emotional and social intelligence.

I guess what I'm saying is that I'm less impressed with these high IQ "geniuses" who can't relate to animals. Intelligence takes many forms. Interesting bit about Einstein. People repeat the bit about how his brain was no larger than anyone else's but, actually, the part of the frontal lobe devoted to spatial intelligence was engorged. Other parts, not at all different....

M@ said...

There are a couple of ways of looking at Fischer. At once, he's brilliant. In another light, he's a fucking retard.

thirdworstpoetinthegalaxy said...

Pamela - I find they're often lacking in social skills. Kind of sad, really.

Jonas - I know a guy who dropped out of MENSA because he thought he was too smart for it.

Eli - So you gave up chess so you could focus more on living? Smart choice. :)

DWC - I haven't played a genuine game of chess in ages. Used to be pretty good, but I doubt that's still the case.

M@ - The great thing about Einstein is that he was a genius who cared a great deal about people... even if it did purportedly take him a fair while to learn to tie his shoes. That dude rocked.

Stacy said...

I did not know that about Bobby Fischer. My son really admired him and loved to play chess. I would rather \have a happy kid than a disturbed genius any day. Being a genius isn't all its cracked up to be, ask me how I know. (kidding)