I’m currently about halfway through Walter Isaacson’s biography of Albert Einstein. It’s an interesting experience because I am simultaneously being reminded of why I admire him and also learning how much he made his family sacrifice for his career, which is not painting him in the best light. I have quite a few quotes from Einstein that I really love (I’ve already shared one on this blog and will likely share many more), but this one in particular spoke to me this week:
Great spirits have always encountered violent opposition from mediocre minds.
– Albert Einstein
I have no doubt that most of us have experienced this. I’m guessing everyone reading this reads. A lot. We’re all intelligent people. And that can be intimidating. You might have been bullied or put down. Even as an adult, I’ve encountered more than a few people who put me down when I succeed or do something better than someone else.
And even though it doesn’t hurt less every time someone lashes out at you, it does help a little to understand that they’re just intimidated by your mind. It might be flattering, but it doesn’t suck any less. This quote reminds me that I can’t let those people get to me. I can’t dumb myself down when I speak because it upsets people when I use words they can’t understand. Or not answer questions in class because I don’t want to draw attention to myself. I realized this is something I let upset me far too often, and this quote is a great reminder to take a step back and both be more understanding of others and not be ashamed of my own mind. Because it’s a pretty cool place.
Just to clarify, in my mind, mediocre minds are only those who choose to be that way. The only people I’ve ever had issues for being “too smart” are those who have made the choice to remain ignorant because it’s easier. This is truly just an attitude issue, opting to be defensive rather than open to learning new things from other people. I’ve met plenty of people smarter than I am or who have different experiences, and, sure, it can be intimidating (as evidenced by my brain turning to mush when I met Neil Gaiman), but I’d much rather learn something from them than push them away or put them down.
What do you think of this week’s quote? Have you even encountered “violent opposition from mediocre minds”?