From June 6-8, 2013, I presented two seminars in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. On June 6-7, I spoke on ”Multiple Intelligences: Identifying and Developing Your Multiple Intelligences,” and on June 8, I lectured on ”The Road to Genius.” These seminars were sponsored by Medex International. I had about 30 participants from Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Egypt, and Oman. Because of the religious rules in Saudi Arabia, the men were in one room (including myself) and the women were in a room across the hall from us and viewed the seminar via video. They also had the opportunity to make questions and comments via microphone (the photo above shows some of the male participants who received certificates for attending the seminars).
Although I had previously delivered seminars in Dubai in the United Arab Emirates, this was my first appearance in Saudi Arabia. While the strict rules governing the status of women in Saudi Arabia were sometimes difficult for me to understand given my Western perspective (women must wear an abaya or black gown, and cover their head (sheila) and sometimes even the whole face excepting the eyes (niqab), I was nevertheless able to communicate with the women, answer their questions, entertain their comments, and when they requested, have my picture taken with them (see photo).
The first seminar dealt with Howard Gardner’s theory of multiple intelligences. The seminar participants explored the eight intelligences, looked at the criteria Gardner used to establish his theory, took an inventory that connected the theory to their own lives, and explored the applications of multiple intelligences theory to education and learning, the workplace, and leisure time activities.
The second seminar dealt with the concept of ”genius” and how this is not just an elite classification but a state toward which we all can strive. The participants examined and experienced ten qualities of genius, including creativity, flexibility, curiosity, wonder, and inventiveness. They also looked at the factors that shut down the genius in the home environment, in the schools, and as a result of mass media. Finally, they explored how to re-awaken this genius through simple strategies such as remembering our childhood joys, and looking at what we are really passionate about in our lives.
One of the benefits for me of visiting Saudi Arabia and working with Arabic educators and trainers for three days, was to have a sense of Islamic culture. Over the years, I have been interested in Islam and Islamic history, and had the opportunity to get a feeling for how Islam penetrates every aspect of life here. As participants would speak, they would frequently interpose the phrase ”inchalla” which means ”if God wills it” testifying to their belief that we are all in the hands of Allah (or in the Western view, God). During our breaks, participants would go to the prayer room at the Crowne Plaza Hotel and engage in salaat, or prayer, which they are obligated to do as Muslims five times a day (I frequently heard the call to prayers in the early morning, at midday, and in the evening, broadcast over a speaker system to the whole of the neighborhood community). After the seminars were completed, some members of the seminars went to Mecca (only a one hour drive from here!), to make an ”Umrah,” which is a non-obligatory pilgrimage to the Ka’bah, or Sacred House in Mecca, which is where all Muslims must face when praying from any point in the world.
During the presentation on multiple intelligences, we explored some Islamic themes in relation to the theory, including: how the existential intelligence (a possible ninth intelligence in the theory) seems to acknowledge Islamic practice and belief, how certain forms of musical intelligence appear to be harem (or forbidden) in orthodox Islam (including jazz, pop, and other Western forms of music), while other forms of musical intelligence appear to be hallal (or permitted) such as the musical intonations used in the call to prayers, and the recitation of the holy Qur’an, and finally, how Islamic art displays aspects of spatial intelligence, but also logical-mathematical and existential intelligence (how mosaic patterns, for example, attempt to reveal aspects of the infinite).
At the end of the seminars, I was surprised and delighted by being given a gift: an encyclopedic book entitled ”The Honorable Kabah”, by one of the seminar’s participants AbdulRaouf Bin Hussein AlMojan (see photo). Another participant gave me two other books related to Islam and its beliefs. I am leaving Jeddah today, with a feeling of goodwill toward people in the Middle East, and the hope that the strife which besets this part of the world may be resolved so that all peoples may live in peace and harmony.