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The problem with being clever

By June 29, 2014July 26th, 2018wisdom, zen / spirituality

Being seen as clever by your fellow humans seems like a good thing. We like it when we say something clever and people notice.

Feels good, right?

So what’s the problem with being clever? It’s not at all obvious.

When we bask in the glow of our vanity we have a hard time seeing anything amiss. Feeling clever is sublime, but noticing the effect of our cleverness on others is a drag.

Being clever is always about us, and our ego.

Being ego-driven is normal, and that’s another reason we don’t notice the problem with being clever. But what about clever put downs? Or the mean-spirited rant about someone we barely know? Cleverness has many forms.

Many people strive for, and achieve, cleverness by criticizing others. You’ve noticed this, right?

And have you ever noticed yourself doing it? Well, if not then you’re probably very enlightened, definitely one of the rare ones. More likely, though, you’re like everyone else: marinating in self-delusion.

I finally discovered that I wasn’t rare and enlightened. This realization was hard to come by, and not enjoyable. But at least now I catch more frequent glimpses of my tendency to disguise shallow judgments as cleverness.

Seeing negative impulses rattling around in your brain is unsettling. But it’s better than having other people point them out. Of course, most people won’t bother to tell you. At least not to your face.

When you’re not around, some folks who notice your failings will take the time to say something harsh. Maybe even clever.

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