Sunday, March 15, 2009

Being a Genius

Who is a genius? Some believe in genius a must who visits, others believe that it is born, and still others believe that it is a combination of both. Some think that genius is the subjective nature of opinions. But make no mistake about it, genius, is a collective label and by this notion it is not altogether personally subjective. We don't have to like a piece of art or music or wholly appreciate a technology to recognize the artist or inventor's genius, yet we collectively agree.

For example, we collectively agree that DaVinci was a genius. We collectively agree that Mozart was a genius. We collectively agree that Stephen Hawking is a genius.We collectively agree that George Washington Carver was a genius. We collectively agree that Prince is a genius. We collectively agree that Auguste Rodin was a genius. We collectively agree that Marcel Proust was a genius. We collectively agree that Thelonious Monk was a genius. We collectively agree that Sartre was a genius. We collectively agree that Alexander Pushkin was a genius. We collectively agree that Georgia O'Keeffe was a genius. We collectively agree that Toni Morrison in a genius. We collectively agree that Van Gogh was a genius. We collectively agree that Thomas Edison was a genius.

Genius is not merely subjective; it's collective thought and acceptance. It's also impact, appreciation and value. The interesting thing is that geniuses are not often labeled as such during their lifetime. But it is something that we recognize collectively in spite of particular present or future acknowledgment, individual taste or in-depth knowledge of those who appreciate them. I love the mind of Stephen Hawkings, but some of what he says just blows me over, not only because my background is not physics, but because of his particular perceptions of science and the universe.

By the way, all of the above geniuses stand alone as individuals with repeated brilliant works and discoveries, though more than a few, such as Rodin and Edison, worked so closely with others that here are discrepancies as to who actually created some of their works and inventions. But the muse remained with these, but it would be interesting to think what they thought of their own works. Van Gogh certainly did not think very highly of his works all the time, neither did Mozart or O'Keeffe and many others as their letters reveal.

What are your thoughts on genius? Who else might be included?


The Write Girl said...

Hi Judith,

This is an interesting concept about the idea of genius. I believe it does become collective based on society's standards. I also feel like the label "genius" is attached by a historian to define one's work and people just accept it as so. I don't think that most people today have read or studied many of these artists, inventors, and creators in depth so we take the opinion of an expert to heart. So we say things like genius although few of us have ever researched or studied them. That is not to say that they aren't geniuses but I believe once we tag it to someone, it becomes common knowledge.

Brosreview said...

"But it is something that we recognize collectively in spite of particular present or future acknowledgment, individual taste or in-depth knowledge of those who appreciate them." - I totally agree!!!

You know what, I was having this rather heated discussion with a friend of mine over the same issue last night. We were talking about musicians, specifically - guitarists.

We were finding it quite hard to come to a collective conclusion so as to who could be called a true genius. I just had one name all the way - Jimi Hendrix!!!

He was a genius, considering the things he did with a guitar during his time. With least of technologies assistance, he created wonders.

But, then there were a few other names that joined the discussion; Jimmy Page / Eric Clapton. Ever since then, I have become uncertain of the word "genius". Tell me, then who is a legend? What is the difference between the two - genius and a legend? Are they both the same?

I think they share some characteristics.

I think the one who started all this magic with strings needs to be referred to as a genius as he is the one who exposed the fact that anything was possible with 6 strings and a plank of wood. And, that name would be Niccolo Paganini.

And, the ones who developed that furthermore to create wonders with a combination of technology (even to a certain extent) is a legend.

Is that right?

Okay, now I am rambling. As always, your posts make me think and think Judith.

judith ellis said...

The Write Girl - Labels often do not mean a lot do they? They are often placed upon. I agree that most of us do not have in-depth knowledge about those we label geniuses. But do you also think that even without this we recognize it when we see it? The tagging process is without doubt a part of labeling, but there is also the undeniable fact that there are genuises among us, recognized or not, born or visited upon. I too like it when you stop through.

judith ellis said...

Ajey - Speaking of guitarists, how could I have forgotten Jimi Hendrix! What a genius! What a legend!

With regards to your question about legends, though aligned with geniuses, legends for some reason have more of a flair, they're more performanced based, more theatrical, more variation on a theme type. Make sense?

Geniuses are often thinker innovator types, though they can be performers too. I agree that they share some characteristics.

Niccolo Paganini was without doubt a genius!

You never ramble! Good to see you, as always.

John O'Leary said...

As I was reading your post, Judith, I was about to add that Hendrix is one who certainly qualifies as a guitar genius, but Ajey beat me to it. There may be others, but I'd put Hendrix #1. (I think he got the #1 vote in the Rolling Stone critics' survey of greatest guitarists a few years back.)

judith ellis said...

For sure, John! Hendrix is a god! "Ye are gods!" This post is a version of a comment I made on your blog, Rock and Roll Lessons. You make some great points in the post and comments. Thanks! Others there have also made some great points.

The Write Girl said...

Hey Judith,

I think you are right about your sentiments. There are people who are phenomenal at what they do and which cannot be replicated. : )

judith ellis said...

Hey The Write Girl - Your poetry is most beautiful. I love popping in. Thank you.