Giants of Human Intellect and Our Failure

I sit there and watch people so profusely display their intellect, talent and knowledge, my jaws drop at the amazingly unbelievable expanse of their mental prowess.

This happens with me all the time; at work, watching movies, and even having a drawing room discussion on Pakistani political and security situation over a nice and cozy cup of tea which is, most of the time, a zero-sum pass time, in fact, a favorite for average minded Pakistanis like myself.

Just a couple of days ago, I was part of a University Selection Board; a panel interview session to recruit permanent faculty members according to the Charter of the University. It was a remarkable process, so many brilliant minds, young and old, qualified from various local and international institutes of repute, have appeared for recruitment as faculty members.

I feel so devastated, I must confess. It was like feeling having wasted so many decades of my little precious life – err, okay, not so many but past couple of decades only. I mean how can be people so bright and intelligent? No wonder success has ever come hunting for me.

I was lately, and amazingly, surprised by a young and pretty female relative, of course I have always been fascinated by the opposite gender, specifically so pretty ones such as the one I mention of. And like a chauvinistic male, I have often believed that beauty and brains are poles apart, but God! How wrong I was? This beautiful young lady one day invited me to read her blog about photography, and while I read it I was so impressed by her talent that I felt so pathetic for my lack of interest in photography despite owning a couple of cameras.

God has, truly, discriminated on how His creatures can use their mental abilities, and I feel so useless to be among those on the lower side of the intellectual distribution.

I see such brainy, intelligent, talented and successful people and often think how do the minds of such people actually work? How do they remember, retain and process so much data and information and transform them in to actionable, and powerful, knowledge that drives them insanely to competence and success. What are the essential elements of their brightness? Is there a specific or common formula of such brilliance?

I remember when I watched Raj Kapoor’s legendary movies including Shree 420, Awara and Mera Naam Joker – back in my early teenage when the video cassette was the common technology – I was so inspired that I wanted to be able to act like him; so naturally, and to write about topics so meaningful and so close to the social and moral fiber of the society.

When I was really young, like a common Muslim, I viewed Genghis Khan in a very negative light. I viewed him only as a mindless barbaric savage, but over the course of next few years, I read more about him and realized that regardless of his actions, he had a tremendous and superb strategic and diplomatic mind that eventually catapulted his legacy to survive over centuries, dynasties and continents.

Allama Iqbal is a giant of human intellect
Dr. Muhammad Iqbal

And at the same time, I often think about great minds like Albert Einstein, Karl Marx, Friedrich Nietzsche, John Keats, Bertrand Russell, and even Steve Jobs, and pay my humble respects to their mental greatness, and to how people with great mental and intellectual abilities like them have driven their nations and communities to success and progress regardless of their personal gains from their abilities.

Over the years, among so many things that I have learnt from movies is this great lesson by Michael Corleone, “never hate your enemies, it affects your judgment”.

These countless brilliant minds and souls that have lived, and are living right now, are intellectual assets of humanity, and regardless of color, cast, creed or religion, I feel that we, in the Muslim world, have a lot to learn from these giants. In my opinion, the Muslim world has a negligible contribution to achievements by human intellect over the past century or so except a few great names here and there like Allama Dr. Muhammad Iqbal. The young Muslim today needs to review social, political and scientific history in a new light, drive their mental abilities to research and pursuance of knowledge if we are to drive our societies and communities to success and progress.

How history has judged such brilliant minded people, and their actions, is an entirely different topic, for an entirely different discussion best suitable in an academic environment. But, our personal biases should not be a motif in our judgment of them and their roles in humanity, or roads to success will be hindered by repetitive failures.