Sunday, September 24, 2006

Are you a genius?

Laughing Reindeer, Nara, Japan, June 2003, Pentax Optio 555, Exposure 1/160 sec @ f5.6, ISO 100, no flash © Steven Crisp [Click on the photo to enlarge]

OK, sorry -- he's not laughing at you given the question above. I just couldn't find a better photo for this post. But it is amazing how much he does look like he's laughing, doesn't it? Anyways ...

Just where does genius come from? Have you ever asked yourself that question? Genius can be mathematical or scientific, like Einstein, or it can be in the arts, like Mozart, and many other ways as well. Are these people simply born as geniuses? Are they just really smart, or is it that they have an ability to tap into something that the rest of us struggle with daily. Perhaps they are not as constrained as you and I, for some reason. Perhaps they are inspired -- “in spirit”. And can this capability ever come to us common folk?

According to an extract from this article, Orlando Serrell did not possess any special skills until he was struck in the head by a baseball when he was 10. He has remembered where he was and what he was doing almost every day since.

Serrell is what Treffert calls an "acquired savant," someone who exhibits savant skills after suffering a head injury or a stroke to the left hemisphere of the brain. Treffert believes the brain injury somehow frees acquired savants from the language and logic that rules our everyday lives. [emphasis is mine]. You will also read (and hear) about other savant's extraordinary skills at the link above.

"We tend to think of ourselves as having this blank disc in the marvelous piece of equipment called the brain, and what we become is everything we put on this disc. And I'm saying there is much more to us. That we come with software," Treffert says.

In short, Treffert says, there is genius in all of us.

Think about that — or perhaps don’t think about it. Instead, consider it, contemplate it, reflect upon it, imagine it, do almost anything but think about it using standard words and conventions. As Treffert says, try to free yourself “from the language and logic that rules our everyday lives.”

And then, perhaps -- just perhaps -- you too can have a taste of your own genius -- without even trying. Either because you can unleash the true untapped potential of your brain (for materialists), or because you are in touch with that which is the source of all inspiration (for the metaphysical among us).

In any case, why not try to unleash your real potential. Or just rest in the knowledge that more lurks beneath your superficial self. Dig, my friend, dig deeply.
Neither a lofty degree of intelligence nor imagination nor both together go to the making of genius. Love, love, love, that is the soul of genius. -- Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756-1791)


Pat said...

This is great. I must reconstruct a conversation I had recently with someone who spoke of reading about another who, when they alleviated whatever debilitating pain they had, also lost their creativity. Interesting. Would any one of us choose to live in pain simply to remain creative?

Freeing ourselves from language and logic. If only. Here's an example. You say the word genius. Immediately I think of the word as a label. Thus if there is a word depicting genius, it implies there is also *not* genius. We're in trouble already. I don't have an easy way out ot the language soup, since it's the only way we can communicate. Maybe it would be better if we didn't even have the word genius. I'm not trying to pick on that word, just using it as an example. I understand the Hopi Indians of Arizona don't have a word for war. That tells us something.
I wonder how a linguist would evaluate and compare eastern and western languages, by the way.

About that reindeer…it's a real live flesh and blood reindeer? Or a statue?

Last question: why are your word verifications so much easier than the ones on my blog?

Steven Crisp said...

Pat, so many questions ;-)

First, yes, I have a friend with a somewhat debilitating disease (bi-polar condition) who chooses to forgo the medications that can keep him out of deep, dark depression, because it robs him of his creative, illuminated mind. He has chosen to face the illness and its symptoms, rather than cover it over with drugs. I suspect there are many cases like this. I remember seeing the King of Hearts movies in college -- just where do the "mad" people reside?

As for "genius" -- I understand your point about the limitations that creates for so many because it is only a label. As they say in Zen, my finger pointing at the silvery moon, is not the moon. But this is true for EVERY word (or concept) we use. It is the limitation our of being manifest into the world of duality (and aware of only that) -- every thing must have an object and a subject, and that is part of the Grand Illusion.

Not having a word, or having many more words as the Inuit have for "snow" won't fix this problem. It is inherent in our means of communication and the use of concepts. Check out this link for a little more discussion on this.

All really great performers, artist, etc. do not learn the rote expressions and mechanics for their field, and then apply them. They "feel" or "see" the music, the art, the math equations. Remember the movie Good Will Hunting. Think about the likes of Mozart. Or just watch the video in that article I referenced in the post for the 14 year-old who is playing perfect jazz improv piano (which started when he was 7, and he is autistic). He says the music just moves from his brain directly to his fingers; frankly, I wonder if it was ever in his brain, but that is another subject.

I find this subject interesting, because it may help the "materialists" realize that there are some phenomenal capabilities lurking under the surface of our conceptual mind. Once you buy into concepts and words, you are trapped in this dualistic world, where our minds have been programmed by conventionality. We do not see because we have learned not to see.

Finally, yes the reindeer was live flesh and blood, and I just caught him in the middle of a yawn if I recall correctly. But I can only see the laughter.

Word verifications? I notice no difference when I post a comment to my blog than to your blog. Maybe you can blame the chemo;-)

Thanks for being a part of the "conversation" beyond words.

Pat said...

And thanks for being so patient with the questions. Yes, I can blame chemo. There is a real thing called chemo brain. I've experienced it before.

This subject is fascinating, delving into the illusion of duality, looking at who we are apart from our brain.

Tony Myles said...

According to a free online test, I'm a "borderline genius."

I'm not sure I understand what that means, though

Steven Crisp said...

That's clever, Tony. I think it just means you are borderline ;-) Thanks for the visit.

slskenyon said...

Genius seems to get lost in this day and age's "here and now" lifestyle. To think like that requires a lot of consideration, but also the freeing of oneself from what one's every day, mundane considerations. Perhaps that is why so few of us could even touch genius--we cannot "get out" of our own little worlds.

Steven Crisp said...


That's an interesting thought. I would agree, our mind (or source of inspiration) can goes limp under the weight of minutae. As Thoreau said,

"Our life is frittered away by detail ... Simplify, simplify."

But at the same time, we live in a world full of convenience and security (notwithstanding the headlines). Everday matters of survival (gathering food, fuel, water) are all virtually instantaneous.

Ahhh, but what we trade in kind is the time needed to work to earn the money to pay for this convenience. Which leads me to another Thoreau quote:

"There is no more fatal blunderer than he who consumes the greater part of his life getting his living; and Oh to reach the point of death and realize one has not lived at all." -- Henry David Thoreau

So perhaps you are right. Time for our inspiration. Time for our contemplation. Time for our genius. Are fundamental to break the chains that bind us to "the human condition."

Lightchaser said...

It made me smile to chance upon your blog and specifically this post tonight, because I just finished reading Flowers for Algernon yesterday and have been musing about the notion of 'genius' all through today. At a very fundamental (and perhaps oversimplified?) level I do believe that several people recognised as geniuses today are people who threw off the shackles of ideas that society would have them accept unquestioningly (similar to what slskenyon has said above). In our efforts to organise and control human society we have left little space for deviance but we tend to forget that not all deviance is negative. Some (much?) of it is a creative spirit straining to find a different truth for itself when it realises it cannot digest the ones placed before it. I'm fairly sure there is a streak of what is conventionally understood as 'genius' in each and every living creature, something that it is outstanding at. Sadly all but an infinitesimal percentage of us muddle through life without ever being able to identify what that is, much less tap into its dazzling potential.

Steven Crisp said...

Well hello, lightchaser, and welcome. Somehow you did stumble on a rather ancient post, but it was fun to be transported back in time.

I concur with your assessment that we all either have a "streak of genius" or the ability to tap into much larger capabilities of our mind. And I would also concur that many people ultimately deemed "genius" by society are often living on the hairy edge of it -- perhaps considered "kooky" or even "mad" by much of the mainstream.

Because indeed genius implies venturing far away from the mainstream, almost by definition. And much of society feels uncomfortable living outside the confines of what is found to be "mutually agreeable".

So I wonder, with your musing on genius of late, what might you be doing to tap into that latent potentiality?

Again, thanks for the visit.