Mind and Intelligence, Part 3
By Eli Siegel
Opposites and Benjamin Franklin
Benjamin Franklin was aware that he could change his mind. When the stamp tax came to America, for a while he was for it and wrote, “Idleness and pride tax with a heavier hand than kings and parliaments: if we can get rid of the former, we may easily bear the latter.” Franklin here is in a puzzle in the field of intelligence as to what makes us unhappy: is it government, or is it something in ourselves, or what? The only way to be intelligent on this matter is to put together what we are with what is around us. Franklin is saying there is something in ourselves that can harm us more than kings and parliament; later he changed about that.
He can be very practical—and also very angry. We think of Franklin as being a gentle person; he was, in a way. But when England at last attacked Americans in 1775—this was after Lexington and Concord and Bunker Hill—Franklin wrote a letter to an old London friend, a publisher, William Strahan, friend of Johnson. It is one of the famous letters in history:
You are a member of Parliament, and one of that majority which has doomed my country to destruction. —You have begun to burn our towns, and murder our people. —Look upon your hands! They are stained with the blood of your relations! —You and I were long friends: — You are now my enemy, —and I am
Yours, B. Franklin
Intelligence: Practical and Grand
A person should be able to see that there is nothing more thrilling than to want to buy something costing twenty cents and to have twenty cents. That kind of intelligence is necessary. But by itself it is bad, because the intelligence that doesn’t take in the meaning of music, the meaning of space, the meaning of the unconscious, is an incomplete intelligence. People who, without knowing it, divide themselves can become practical at one time and romantic at another time. They are in a state of peril because they will try to find life boring except for the great moment of love. And any person who finds all the days dull is also unfair to one night. Many people are always thinking of the great moment—destiny is an iridescent bubble just for them—and this is a way of insulting destiny and environment, because it doesn’t relate one possibility of reality to everything else. How, for example, would a violin made by a working man like it if a Beethoven symphony were discussed and nothing like a violin or the workmanship in it were discussed? The violin would say, I was there when the symphony happened; why don’t you look at me too? Even the floor where the orchestra played wants to be included; after all, you need a floor in order to play music. It isn’t everything to be sure, but the ordinary is part of the extraordinary, and people are very stupid because they go after the extraordinary unassisted or unaccompanied. That is one of the prime means of lessening intelligence.
Though Franklin could be very irreligious apparently, he could also be very religious: “If a sparrow cannot fall without God’s knowledge, how can an empire rise without his aid?”
He showed that there was electricity in the skies when there was lightning; likewise, he had a sense of the whole world, and he was interested in liberty. So the Frenchman Turgot said of him in Latin, “He snatched the lightning from heaven, and the sceptre from tyrants.” But Franklin said, “In spite of my experiments in electricity, the lightning still strikes our nose or our beard; and so far as the tyrant is concerned, more than a million of us united to snatch his sceptre from him.” He didn’t want to be seen as alone in snatching sceptres from tyrants, or doing such things as snatching lightning from heaven. He wanted to see this in a sober way. People can be tidy and also roam through space: that is the time when intelligence is occurring. That is the time when we have that unification, that integration of man as real, because reality does roam through space and is also tidy.
Love and Intelligence
Most people honestly think that when they’re in love they are stupid. Anytime a woman is in love, she thinks something has happened to her and she’s no longer sensible; a man, if he’s deeply in love, thinks something has come over him. Love is looked on as the greatest enemy to intelligence there is, and sex and intelligence are looked on as a dog and cat that don’t get along. Now, if that has to be so, there’s not much future for intelligence; and Dr. Freud helped to perpetuate this kind of dull insufficiency.
People can say truly, “I do not know how to put together my sex urges and my desire for logic, for lucidity, for depth,” but they have no right, except the right that conceit gives them, to say that it cannot be done. To say that a human being is, as such, permanently at war with himself, is an insult to the intelligence of reality.
When women and men can say, “Yes, I’m excited by the mighty passion, but I’m intelligent about it. I think I love adequately, but I don’t think I’m stupid about it. I think I have the grand passion, but I don’t feel as if I were on a murky merry-go-round, and I don’t think that I’ve lost all my perception,” that will be a great day.