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I never read much by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle but I do enjoy his literary creations. The recent Hollywood adaptations with Robert Downey Jr. and Jude Law are fun (and nice to look at), though I think I'm more partial to the BBC's Benedict Cumberbatch-Martin Freeman version - still fun (and nice to look at), but less gory than its American television counterpart (which is still, nice to look at). But as entertaining as it is, in any of these versions, to watch a super-hot guy make impossible deductions with his super-hot intellect, I've realized that, in real life, that exact behavior bugs the hell out of me.
It took me a long time to figure out that this was at the core of what drove me crazy about my ex. It crystallized in this analogy:
Me: My favorite color is blue.
Him: No it's not - it's red.
Me: No... It's blue.
Him: You're wearing a red shirt. You just bought a poster with a giant red rose. Even your microwave is red.
Me: It's my favorite color! And my favorite color is blue!
Him: Fine... now you like blue.
Me: No! It has always been blue! I can like any other color I want, but I decide what my favorite color is, and myyyyyyyyy favorite color is Mother. Fucking. Blue!!
Him: Whatever. If you want to change your story and like blue now, that's fine. Be in denial. I don't understand why you're getting so emotional over it.
It also occurred to me, after reading more about the trend of "gaslighting" women in our society, that this is a really good example of it. But, frustrating though he could be, my ex was not a bad guy and he would definitely consider himself a feminist. In his case, this behavior was not his subconscious feelings of intellectual and emotional superiority over women. Rather, he very consciously felt intellectually and emotionally superior to basically everybody.
And therein lies my problem: that decisive intellect. Yes, my ex is a smart guy - that was a major part of his appeal. But the arrogance... ugh. Just because you may have an exceptional ability to make connections, doesn't mean those connections are always correct. Just because you perceive something, and there seems to be a likely conclusion, that doesn't mean you can make that conclusion, categorically. And so many people do this!
What is entertaining, intellectually thrilling from the Sherlock character, is more like arrogant judgmentalism from these real-life, would-be geniuses. If you're Sherlock Holmes, you see a red microwave on the counter and you can render a complete psychological profile, give the person's whereabouts at the time of the murder, and the whole why-the-who-dunnit. And because you're Sherlock Holmes, the writer will, obligingly, make your conclusions correct. In real life, however - no.
The truth of the matter is that even the most brilliant minds are not all-knowing. Such minds can make tremendous connections, have profound insights that others might take half a lifetime to reach. That doesn't make their insights infallible. That doesn't keep them from seeing connections that aren't really there. That, especially, doesn't mean they can then draw conclusions about the way people or things will be, however far off, in the future. But when you add the arrogance of knowing just how smart they are, that can keep them from admitting, or even seeing, when they are wrong about any piece of it.
As much as someone might seem to have such-and-such an opinion or motivation or personality, no one else can say definitively why they are doing anything, or how they truly think and feel. By all means, offer me your perception of me... but don't think you're right about me. Only I can say what is my favorite color. If I dream of a cigar, only I can say if I was really thinking about a cigar or if I was... ruminating on the merits of ending the American embargo of Cuba.
And no one gets to say that, even if all our debts were paid, we lived in our own little house with a yard for the boys to play, and all broken things were fixed, that I'd still be unhappy, because that's just how I am, that's just how I'm choosing to be. Fuck you, Sherlock. I'm the only one who has been with me from the start. I'm the only one who has a chance of knowing me, and knowing how I might be in the future. No one else gets to decide that for me.
And you don't have to be an annoying smarty-pants to act like you know it all. Politicians are rife with this attitude. Obviously, you have to have a considerable amount of confidence and ego to get out there and sell yourself and convince total strangers that you have the Answer. The hazard is that this does not foster an open and considerate mind. Flexibility comes off as being weak-minded, with weak convictions. But overcompensating with this undue decisiveness encourages prejudices against ideas, against data, even against whole groups of people.
The truly brilliant thinkers are humble. The smartest people know how
to listen - and how to be wrong. The real geniuses of the world should
give their every definitive conclusion an asterisk. Especially, when
you are trying to understand people. Wisdom is knowing that you're probably wrong about something, and that insight - wisdom - can come from anyone, not just sexy, fictional detectives, or real-world, crazy-haired scientists. And definitely not from most politicians.