I just found an article about Asperger’s syndrome (in Norwegian), which got me thinking about how the world views unusually talented people. While Asperger’s syndrome is real, isn’t it fascinating how we look at people like Bill Gates and Albert Einstein and assume that they must in some way be different from us, that there must be something “wrong” with them? As if it doesn’t occur to anyone that (warning, this thought is scary) maybe they’re just smarter?
So many people have said that there is a fine line between genius and insanity, but I don’t want to believe it. I’m not saying that an insane person can’t be a genius, but I refuse to believe that there is a certain limit to our natural intelligence and that if you overstep that boundary, you lose control of your mind. That idea is dangerously close to the belief that anyone smarter than you must be nuts.
According to this article, one of the symptoms of Asperger’s is a limited ability to interact with others, particularly people of one’s own age. But when children realize that they don’t think the way other children think, isn’t it a natural reaction to want to retreat away from others? In a documentary shown a couple of months ago on NRK, the mother of an unusually smart boy told her story. She said the day her son realized that he was different from the other children and that they were not going to change and start thinking like him, he became depressed.
This blog may end up looking very nerdy. So far the categories I’m writing in are Books and Other, and I have not added complaints about friends, links to Internet quizzes or anything personal (I’m not saying I never will). And somehow I’ve managed to spend the last three years doing advanced math and physics with future doctors and scientists (long story). But I’ve always considered myself too social, too girly and maybe even too pretty to be a real geek. Unlike this guy (who explains some things well very well in his article), I’ve never been bullied. I don’t see myself as different from everyone else, but sometimes I wonder if I should. I have been to parties where I’ve wanted to scream: “Am I the only non-idiot here?” before slapping the hostess and running away. And I have encountered so many silly prejudices, including:
- You are either creative or smart. Never both. You can’t be both artistic and good at math. (According to the best math student in the class)
- If you think about Einstein’s theory of relativity for too long, your brain won’t be able to handle it. (According to my physics teacher)
- The modern world doesn’t need mathematicians and scientists anymore. (According to a journalist in my country’s biggest newspaper)
- “Your favorite subject is MATH?!?! Seriously? Um… ok… uh…” (The host of a children’s program, while interviewing a nine-year-old girl.)
- I’m beginning to wonder if all the insane geniuses throughout history lost their minds from over-exhaustion, or if all the “normal” people just drove them crazy.