Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Thoughts on Love and Intelligence

Do you think those of a higher intelligence are able to love more deeply? (Please try, for just a moment, to not turn this into a semantics argument.)

When this question was first posed to me, I answered "yes" automatically. But then I immediately reconsidered. Why? Why did I answer yes to that?

 My younger sister, Maggie, is one of the most energetic thirteen-year-olds you'll ever meet. She has an innate vitality that follows here everywhere. Sometimes it's almost as if she has more than her physical being can handle. She has a very active imagination, good memory, and impressive logic and problem solving skills.

Maggie is also autistic. She's in the "special" class at her middle school. You don't have to be around her for long before you realize that there is something very off about the way she behaves and communicates. She is extremely stubborn, fervent and temperamental.  She is a creature of habit completely uncomfortable with change. Her skills in speech, reading, and learning are all several years behind where they ought to be. Overall, she's not very well adjusted, though I think she is entirely capable if getting there with time.

Growing up with her, I always thought I understood her better than anyone else, at times moreso than her own mother. I introduced her to video games at a young age and was a diehard advocate for her continued exploration of them as she got older. They were something she became passionate about, just about the only thing she was passionate about, and I believed the skills she could learn from them to be invaluable.

The only time she really communicates openly is when she's talking about video games. If you ask her about her day at school she won't answer. She won't talk about books or people or anything really. But if you ask her about the new treasures she's found in Pikmin 2, she could go on for hours. Video games, in a way, are her world, and a common means for someone else to enter her world. (Being the only one in her immediate family to also play video games, I always thought this fostered a special connection between us.) Some might think this is unhealthy, but I disagree. If not for video games, what would she have instead? Television?

At any rate, I think that in certain areas she is very intelligent, much moreso than people give her credit for. But her social intelligence is lacking, as are her communication skills. It made growing up with her an unusual experience. She doesn't usually make eye contact. Her sentences are often ambiguous or disjointed. She does not understand or experience emotions in a way that I can compare to the average human being. You know, I don't think I've ever in my entire life heard Maggie say, "I love you."

But I know she does.

Sometime in the past year or two, while I was off 500 miles away from my immediate family who I hadn't seen in months, I received a call from my mother. She was sitting aside a hospital bed, calling to tell me Maggie had gotten a serious MRSA infection. I could heard loud, aggravated grunts and groans in the background, as if in protest of something. My mother informed me that Maggie was angry because she absolutely insisted my mother didn't tell me she was in the hospital.

I felt a pang in my heart. I don't know how it seems to an outside observer, but as someone that's known Maggie her entire life, what she did that day was the greatest expression of love I had ever seen from her, and perhaps ever felt in my own time. She understood the severity of her situation, and despite her own pain and difficulty, she wanted to spare me the burden of worrying about her. It was absolutely beautiful.

In reflection, I know why my gut reaction was to answer the initial question in the affirmative. Those with higher intelligence are often better capable of expressing their love, and so they can more deeply share their love, and by this line of thought, those of higher intelligence can more deeply fall in love with eachother. Communication is incredible that way. However, I must disagree with the sentiment that they can feel love more strongly, because at this point in time, I know better. My dear Magpie has shown me otherwise.

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