Nocturnomath or Airhead?


Today I drew the Six of Swords again in an exchange reading. Remember? It’s the one with the balloon growing from the person’s head, enabling them to float away in their little aircraft.

As in my previous reading, I had to think of the character of Professor Abdullah Nightingale (in German: Abdullah Nachtigaller) from the novel “The 13.5 Lives of Captain Bluebear” by Walter Moers. He is a seven-brained Nocturnomath (Eydeet) and thus the most intelligent life form of the entire fictional world of Zamonia (Zamonien). He looks like this:

Nocturnomaths are so intelligent they have grown extra brains on the outsides of their skulls. Their thought processes make a clicking sound, and many of them have telepathic and telekinetic abilities (Nightingale, for example, can open a can of sardines just by thinking about it).

In short: We’re talking about extreme intelligence and its consequences. (And about a book you should check out if you like wildly imaginative, humorous fantasy and are ready to read stuff not written by Terry Pratchett.) But let’s get back to the card.

As I was contemplating the card image, playing with words and images in my mind, I also arrived at another concept: that of the airhead, as in “no brain, just air.” Which brings us to the other end of the spectrum, that of a glaring lack of intelligence.

And this is where I leave the playful associations and arrive in a more serious mood. I’m thinking about situations where very high intelligence suddenly (or gradually) turns into something very “stupid”…

There comes a point where a very high IQ actually keeps you from being particularly functional in an average, everyday world. Where communication breaks down or doesn’t even take off in the first place. Where you can’t help feeling like a total freak and alien amongst all these perfectly nice and perfectly normal people.

I mean, think about it.

  • The average IQ is 100.
  • 95% of the population have IQs between 70 and 130.
  • A person with an IQ of below 70 is usually considered intellectually disabled (mentally retarded), whereas someone with an IQ above 130 is considered intellectually gifted (you need an IQ above 132 to be admitted into the high-IQ society Mensa).
  • 2.2% of the population have an IQ above 130 or below 70.
  • Of those, only 0.13% have an IQ above 145 or below 55 (depending on the IQ scale you use – see illustration).

Now imagine living in a world where the vast majority of the people you interact with on a daily basis are intellectually as “far away” from you as someone with an IQ of 100 is from someone with an IQ of 50-60.Then you have an idea how my life often feels to me. (Yes, I’m one of the 0.13%. But please don’t tell my boss. And maybe not even some of my friends.)

Sure, this comparison is hugely oversimplified, and the whole IQ issue is hotly debated anyway. I’m aware of that, and I actually agree with much of the criticism of IQ testing and of the narrowing down of “intelligence” to its intellectual subset. But let’s leave that debate aside for once, okay?

Because every now and again I find it oddly comforting to look at this bell curve, find “my” spot and realize once again that there really is a world of difference between me and, say, my coworkers or my boss. That I’m not just imagining that. That at least some of my problems aren’t due to a flawed character or lacking social skills but due to simply being part of a rather small minority. And that makes it easier to go back to work the next day and deal with the fact that I spend most of my time with that mental “Ferrari” stuck in a traffic jam…

What a chain of associations, huh? But hey, I can totally tie the “mental Ferrari” back to the card image of the Deviant Moon’s Six of Swords! Well, consider this my card meditation for the day…


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