What Makes the Human Intelligent?

Catherine Arnold, OP
Blog by Sr. Cathy Arnold, OP

Recently, I spent some time with Franciscan Sister Ilia Delio’s book “The Unbearable Wholeness of Being: God, Evolution, and the Power of Love” and Jalaja Bonheim’s “Evolving Toward Peace: Awakening the Global Heart.” Ilia bases her work on the writings of Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, SJ. Both authors touched in different ways on the question I used for the title, “What makes the human intelligent?” Their question touched me because I often get discouraged when I read the newspaper with article after article about humans using violence against humans. If humans are so intelligent, why are we not smart enough to stop purposefully hurting each other and Earth?

Today we live in a technologically advanced world with computers processing at speeds unimaginable only a few years ago. We have put humans on the moon and we routinely have men and women living on a space station orbiting Earth. Short of controlling weather and other geological events, humans have mastered control through technology over many aspects of our daily lives. Consider that many of us live in air conditioning or heated buildings year round without experiencing fully the actual temperatures of the places we live. I note all this because some might say that these examples indicate the intelligence of humanity, but I find myself pondering, how is it we are able to advance so much technologically, but not advance equally in living compassionately with kindness toward each other.

As Ilia notes, this ability to learn and to build such technology indicates that we, as humans may be smart, but it doesn’t necessarily make us intelligent. To be intelligent we have to recognize our connectedness with others and all of Earth; we have to rely on God-Love and on each other to build and rebuild relationships. As Jalaja calls it, we have to develop “heart thinking” which does not mean letting go of the intellect but rather what describes a harmonious union of an open heart and a clear, supportive mind, the fruits of which are inner peace and wholeness.

I recall a conference talk once when I heard Bryan Massingale, STD, encourage the audience to continue to do the work of the Gospel for the sake of every person on Earth. He said something like –

as Christians and as humans we have work to do until there is no one on Earth who says, “I wish I had been born in that country instead of here in my own.”

As we continue to learn more about our interconnectedness with all humans and all of creation, and put into practice the actions we see Jesus do in the Gospels – caring for the marginalized, the sick, and those desiring a life of greater wholeness – we may see and experience humanity come to a place of greater intelligence and heart-thinking with the grace of God-Love.

Posted in God Calling?