Another facet of narrative intelligence is that you can communicate a lot through stories. Dynamic stories hold the whole picture of something. Often somebody’s story, or just a story of how things are unfolding, tells you a lot about the dynamics of what’s going on. I call the ability to work with all this “narrative intelligence.”
And then we have aesthetics. It’s not just the beauty of pictures and the beauty of your space, although those are part of aesthetic intelligence. But beauty can also be at the heart of activism. Because poverty isn’t beautiful, war isn’t beautiful, pollution isn’t beautiful, prejudice isn’t beautiful, and so on. Our sense of repugnance and attraction has power to shape how we respond to things. And it’s possible to have a whole movement based on beauty. We want a beautiful world, what’s involved in creating that?
Somatic intelligence is a cluster of ways of knowing and relating that all involve our bodies, often in connection with some other form(s) of intelligence. Movement, being able to move our bodies around, sensing meaningful sequences of bodily motion and knowing where we are in relationship to things, is part of this. From dance and martial arts (and all their lessons for other parts of our lives) to simply not bumping into things, being able to track and direct the motions of our bodies in physical space is extremely important for adaptation and learning. A lot of what is called ‘street smarts’ includes awareness of the location, attitudes, and movements of our own and others’ bodies. This is also a part of emotional intelligence, noticing how people are moving, holding or placing their bodies, what’s often called “body language”. Somatic intelligence also includes being “tuned in” to what’s going on inside our bodies and – combined with empathy – being tuned in to what’s going on inside another person.
Spatial sensing and design is another aspect of intelligence which architects and designers use a lot. The placement of things– how things are arranged – has a gigantic impact. The practice of permaculture is based on where things go in relationship to other things. It also has to do with being able to think and design things ahead of time before we have to do it in the world. It is an interesting companion to stories and imagination in terms of design capacity.
Even habit – our ability to take some new behavior and incorporate it into our life – can be viewed as a form of intelligence. People don’t necessarily think of that as intelligence, but it is if you want to be able to respond appropriately to certain circumstances. Having habit patterns that fit those circumstances, practicing them so that they come smoothly to you as part of your being. To be able to respond appropriately is a big part of what intelligence is all about.
Then there’s the intelligence of nature and transcendence. There’s a whole field called biomimicry. It looks at engineering problems that natural organisms and natural systems have solved and what we can learn from them. For example, touch fasteners like Velcro were developed by the Swiss electrical engineer George de Mestral who in 1941 went for a walk in the woods and wondered if the burrs that clung to his trousers — and dog — could be turned into something useful. Nature has solved many problems which we are just beginning to understand as problems.
We can look to nature and figure out what’s going on and learn from it, to say nothing of just overall patterns of evolution and change. Nature is the big grandmother of all change and adaptation and learning. It takes a long time for nature to learn. We are like nature’s intelligence and creativity on speed. But nature’s learning has been going on for a long time, and there’s lots to know there and we can model our behaviors and responses on that.
Transcendence is being lifted out of whatever box you’re in. There are ultimate spiritual transcendences into the nature of reality and our relationship to it at very very high levels embodied by mystic and meditative traditions. But there’s also just the ability to get “out of the box”, to think differently about whatever it was you were thinking about before. It is the opposite of habit, it is flexibility, the ability to step out. Interactions between diverse people can help us to step out of whatever box we are in, since we have to look at things from their perspective to at least some extent. There are also other challenges to our current thinking that can help us step out.
These are some of the different dimensions of our ability to learn, our ability to solve problems, our ability to understand what is really going on. So to the extent we can pull them all together, individually for ourselves, and collectively in our groups, we can use our multi-modal intelligence. Very often those different capacities make us feel like we have to fight with each other. Reason is more important than emotion! No! Empathy is more important than reason! And so on. Such arguments are beside the point. We need to figure out how to have our reason guided by our empathy and our empathy guided by our reason. We need to weave them all together. So that’s what I mean by multi-modal intelligence.
(Note: In this pattern I am pulling together a variety of cognitive modes which others distinguish as learning style, cognitive style, multiple intelligences, epistemic diversity, multiple brains or minds – triune brain, head/heart/gut – etc. My intention in doing so is that the kind of wisdom we seek challenges us to integrate all our ways of knowing, learning, evolving and engaging with the world – all forms of cognitive engagement, both individually and, especially, collectively. The more we take them into account and help them function well together, the more of reality we will be able to see and work creatively with.)