Recently, I was asked- “What is your genius?”- my immediate silent reply to myself, while looking my inquisitor in the eye was: “What genius? I haven’t a genius.” He replied to my perplexed and dumbfounded expression saying, “Think. Tell me what first comes to your mind.”
Upon second thought, I replied, aloud. “Could it be my curiosity and exploration? Is it that I am not shy to share my undertakings on my quest towards understanding and comprehending? Is this my genius?”
Since that conversation, I’ve thought some more. What is genius? What is my genius? Do I have a genius? Can one be a genius? Could it be that genius is too easily mystified, or worse simplified?
Historically and etymologically a genius was thought to be a moral spirit who possessed and governed a person from birth to death. A genius was a tutelary deity who guided one’s natural talents or character though life. One could have a genius but was not a genius.
“God takes away the minds of these men,” Plato said of poets, and added that while composing they were in the “grip of something divine.” Plato was illuminating that artistic creation came from divine inspiration; genius was the caprice of the gods.
In more recent history, one thinks of a genius as a person with exemplary intellect or talents, like Einstein or Mozart. And who in humbleness of mind considers oneself their equal? We equate genius with intellect. Genius has evolved from having (or possessing) a genius to beinga genius. Yet, the genius within men like these is more than intellect. So, my question has become, “What is genius?” rather than, “What is my genius?”.
If we look to a thesaurus, we find synonyms for “genius” as varied as brilliance, aptness, percipience, muse, intellectual, talent, genie, tutelary guardian, and master, to list but a few. Furthermore, one often hears the expression, “that is brilliant/genius!” An idea can be brilliant—indeed, genius. A work of art can be inspirational and genius. “Music is a higher revelation than all wisdom and philosophy,” musical genius Beethoven quotes and a score of music can be absolutely genius! So, then, is genius an itor a who? Are the persons who create these ideas, art, music, and inventions also geniuses?
Let’s further consider the word “brilliant” which also means bright and radiant, and also the common phrase “spark of genius.” What is this spark? Is genius like stardust that floats out there and is available to those who seek to ignite it in their soul, mind, imagination, and passions? I have heard that we are all made from elements in the stars, so, theoretically everybody has a little bit of stardust within them. Maybe everyone possesses glimmers of genius and need only to give themselves permission to see this brilliance or their spark within; and, maybe some are made of more than stardust—they are composed of meteors. They are possessed by meteor showers of genius ideas!
If one is sparked by genius from a guardian within and those who come under the possession of genius are enthralled with anguish and madness, what does it mean to bea genius or to call oneself a genius or stable genius? Is thinking about one’s genius more about ego than creativity? Has this word genius become overused and its true meaning watered down in our modern world?
Einstein, Mozart, Beethoven, and Leonardo da Vinci were persons who took the leap of imagination that led to the progress of human knowledge and experience. What if we were to think of genius as a liberty to following our passions in such a manner that is of benefit of all? These luminaries possessed intellect, creativity, passion, perseverance, and mastery. Everyone should give themselves permission to be curious, to experiment, to create, to be playful and to ask big questions. Whether your passion is science, mathematics, or art, if you have inspiration or the spark of an idea, don’t over think it, take that leap, go after it. Creativity and imagination are not rarified or exclusive. We all have creativity in us that should be expressed. If genius exists, it certainly begins there.
Now let’s consider mastery or mastermind, in terms of genius. If we look at the measure of 10,000 hours to master something…that is daunting. But time, patience, and observation are our tools. If we endeavor to pursue with passion and commitment, then the time spent and hard work are not inhibitions. Even the failures, that will occur along the way, are lessons and building blocks, mistakes and unfinished projects are all a part of the process. I certainly have learned a great deal more from my failures than any successes, if nothing more than to trust in patience, fortitude, and discipline. I do believe what a friend said to me as encouragement to continue writing, even in the face of rejection, “Use your energy for writing what’s from your heart. Time and life will bring your words to those who will value what you have to share.”
After all this thinking, I still can’t quite answer the question, “What is your genius?” As far as I can see, it’s not only the possession of intelligence or a wildly imaginative, curious, and observant mind, but, also, a lot of will, effort, and hard work. I believe the world benefits from creativity and imagination, from curiosity and exploration—from pausing to wonder. As best as I can surmise, genius arises from within. The quest to definitively answer what is your genius may never reach an ultimate answer, and that’s OK. Its mystique will continue to intrigue.