Saturday, 31 August 2013

Negativity of a young creative genius - the example of Wordsworth




dearieme said...

I've just been rereading "Unended Quest", Popper's intellectual autobiography. It contains all sorts of things that might interest you. In particular, the way he spent quite some time "doing nothing", meaning nothing remunerative - just thinking and writing for himself. He also had a spell as a sort of unpaid social worker, a spell of apprenticeship to a cabinet-maker, a spell as a Primary School teacher, and so on. And all in a world modern enough for you to be able to understand the context. But then perhaps you know it already?

Nicholas Fulford said...

Given the value of genius to mankind, it is probably a price well worth paying. Every genius adds so much more than do the vast majority who simply toil, that we should happily allow their wanderings into the dark and pregnant spaces from which their gems are mined. The question becomes: How to identify the most likely seeds from which so great a yield may come, and what to do with them so as to increase the likelihood of their potential becoming actualised?

How much is each Shakespeare, Mahler, Jung, Van Gogh, or Einstein worth to mankind? If a lot, then it behooves us to find ways to promote and indulge them, (even if that also means a lot of false positives are included in the mix.)

Creativity is a beautiful thing--it allows connections to be found to see, to feel, to hear, and to know that the universe is not only stranger than we think, but stranger than we can think. To be creative means being willing, (nay compelled,) to go into the spaces which the ancient mariners were warned against on their maps with "Beyond here there be dragons."

There is certainly a reclusive aspect to the creative bent, an aspect that requires reflection, indulgence, and stimulation. The best of the creative geniuses open portals through which the rest of us may from time to time pass through. (I am thinking of the symphonies of Mahler, which are ecstasy inducing forms, which can collapse the struggle and tension of duality into a point of overwhelmingly intense brilliance, and finally silence.)

I have no doubt that living with such genius is not an easy thing for anyone. As much as I appreciate what they create, such people would be very difficult to have intimate and ongoing relations with.

Genius is a great rose with nasty thorns.

Thursday said...

Slightly off topic.

Dorothy's journal is often very beautiful, but she was much more ambivalent about being a public author than William.

I've been doing a bit of a private research project where I go through and compare all the translations for a particular author. It is not at all unusual for the best translation to be by some obscure woman with a fantastic writing style. Obviously they have the talent to write well, but just don't seem to feel the need to "say something" themselves. They prefer to merely be of service to the authors they love, rather than make an original contribution themselves. An example of someone who has actually managed to become semi-well known is Edith Grossman.

In reading biographies of singers, dancers etc. I've often noticed that many great female artists need to be pushed into doing their work by a strong male mentor. The particular example I'm thinking of is Karen Kain and Rudolf Nureyev. Robert McKee, the screenwriting guru, has written about how women often have a much better talent for writing characters etc., but often give up in the savagely competitive Hollywood scene.

In short, the latent talent is often there, but women tend to be less fiercely ambitious than men.

Bruce Charlton said...

@d - Yes, I read it when I was at school and it had quite an impact on me. One thing that stuck in my mind was his argument against the stereotype of neglected genius

Popper was certainly a very difficult, unreasonable man - but nonetheless probably the most useful of 20th century philosophers. Naturally, he was actively kept out of Oxford (centre of British philosophy)!


Thursday - yes, literature is the one area in which there are reasonable numbers of women - and it is at least plausible that the talent is equivalent and differences in achievement could well be due to differences in drive.

Also, a lot of women genius authors seem nearly crazed, and self-destructive - a bigger proportion than men.

Arakawa said...


"In particular, the way he spent quite some time "doing nothing", meaning nothing remunerative - just thinking and writing for himself."

I think the 'doing nothing' mentioned here is of a fairly strictly negative kind: whether staring at the wall brooding, or taking long and aimless trips around the world, or chasing women, or substance abuse, or even just reading the Internet. The kind of activity which, after a year or a decade of it, the person might look back and say 'I spent a year / decade with absolutely nothing to show for it'.

The apparently tricky thing about genius is that, in order to manifest, it requires *both* a considerable amount structure and stricture in certain respects (in order to exclude the possibility of such dissipation), *and* considerable laxity in other respects (indeed, a degree of laxity unimaginable in modern institutions), and the exact set of things to loose and bind depends on what kind of genius you want. (And every genius is practically by definition sui generis, since you want something unique/unforeseen from them.) So it's inconceivable to just come up with a recipe....

Gottlieb said...

I think the negativity of geniuses is an epigenetic trait, I mean, besides the high psychoticism which naturally predisposes to bad mood (often reheated with a good dose of fine to satirical humor) there are also environmental factors such as stupidity and lack of genuine creativity a good part of the population. So if they have a tendency to get angry easily, the little motivating environment exacerbates this predisposition.