"Faith is the bird that feels the light and sings when the dawn is still dark. In effect, the people who change our lives the most begin to sing to us while we are still in darkness. If we listen to their song, we will see the dawning of a new part of ourselves."
Existential Intelligence is the sensitivity and capacity to engage questions about human existence – how we got here, whether we have a purpose, and whether there is meaning in Life. Existential intelligence embraces the exploration of aesthetics, philosophy, religion and values like beauty, truth, and goodness. A strong existential intelligence allows human beings to see their place in the big picture, be it in the classroom, community, world, or universe.
First proposed by Howard Gardner, existential intelligence is one of nine theorized intelligences and is considered to be amoral – that is, it and the other eight categories of human intelligence can be used either constructively or destructively.
Sunday, May 8, 2011
(Jane and Zenna circa 1989. Taken by our friend Beth Thurber, with a pinhole camera)
This morning I went for my ritual bike ride. I try to get started before 8 a.m. if I can. It’s too hot to ride if I go any later.
In 2007 I had an altercation with a dog that pitched me onto the street. Thrown from the bike, I skidded on my face and got pretty torn up. It took a year to begin riding again, and my return was tentative. I never knew when I might encounter another dog, and I was fearful. But this old dog figured out a new trick recently, when it occurred to me that I could choose to ride in an upscale neighborhood where the animals are restrained by their owners, rather than in my own beat-up neighborhood, where we are still working out the details of neighborly behavior, and dogs frequently run loose.
A mile from my house, and riding through trimmed, gloriously green streets, I ruminated on the current drought, and the lush, well-watered growth around me. Several yards sported starter plants – set out by industrious gardeners I’d observed on earlier rides. Was planting new stuff a symbol of wealth? Pride at being able to afford the watering? Thumbing the proverbial nose at the aquifer’s water level and city restrictions?
I pedaled and fumed. Then I remembered a book I am reading. The author suggests we question our belief systems and personal stories – in an effort to investigate conclusions that we’ve drawn. I pedaled and poked around in my brain for another way to perceive the new plantings, the swishing of the sprinklers, and the broad expanses of neatly trimmed green lawn.
What about Hope? What about wanting to generate beauty in the world? This ride was certainly more enjoyable because of the landscaping. All private. No taxpayer expense involved. And certainly artistic sensibility is engaged in organizing foliage and blooming color. How could anyone argue with oxygen-producing, chlorophyll-generating beauty? I pedaled and appreciated the quiet morning and hopefulness – now evidenced all around me.
On this American Mother’s Day holiday, I see mothering the same way. What more creative, hopeful act is there, than bringing another living being into existence? In this world where it so often feels as though we are experiencing a drought of good sense, kindness and compassion, what more positively defiant act is there, than choosing to mother?
So I take my hat off to mothers everywhere. The mothers who are standing up to corrupt, sexist governments in the Mideast, to mothers in Africa bearing the burden of real drought and debilitating hunger, to homeless mothers on the street corners in cities across the US. And to all of us who refuse to give up hope for our children and for the world. Happy Mother’s Day.