Saturday 6 June 2015

Reader's Question: Could I be a genius?

Reader's Question: I've read your blog on genius with great interest and find that my own profile fits many of the traits you describe. I've always been highly disagreeable, neurotic, creative, and with a strong dislike of formal education. I've never understood strivers or "head girls" as you mention. For much of my youth, I've heard those around me say things like "you're so smart, why are you wasting it?" or "why aren't you motivated?" or "It's too bad he refuses to live up to his full potential". I don't much like society or the thought of having to make a living (I just graduated university after dragging it out for eight miserable years) and am most content when I am left alone to read books of history, philosophy, poetry, and literature. I've never had much confidence in my own abilities despite lavish praise from others. Could I be a potential genius? Or just a creative person who lacks motivation? I'm not being arrogant here, just very interested in the topic. 

My response: There is always a problem about applying general arguments to specific instances! So the answer could only be - maybe.

At minimum, the genius-type would have to combine high intelligence (or specific ability) with creativity - but the creativity would only emerge once a channel had been found, and motivation evoked.  Creativity and motivation have the same inner source - and the genius-type is inner-dominated.

The genius (like everyone) has a destiny, but is usually very unclear about what that is. Only when he has found that destiny will inner creativity and motivation be triggered. Only if he finds that destiny will he be able to work intensely. So the thing is to embark on a 'quest' for that destiny.

Finding the destiny does not solve the problem of a career - indeed it might make things worse. Plenty of geniuses have made great breakthroughs, or produced great work, but made no money from them, or been denied the credit.

But that may not really matter. If a genius finds what he needs to do - then he will seek-out a way of doing it - the only tragedy would be not to find it or not to do it. What happens then is out of his control.


Having said all that, genius is rare, and the problems you describe much commoner - especially among men in their twenties-plus.

The problems may simply be part of the endemic demotivation of modern society. Their cause may be that you are adrift- rather than a thwarted genius; that you are cut-off from the primary satisfactions of human life: religion, marriage, family.

One way to think about it is to consider whether you would be prepared to pay the cost of being celibate in order to pursue a creative destiny - this being what many men of genius have done.



Anonymous said...

As the track coach said to Mel Gibson in "Gallipoli"- "Then let's see ya do it!"

Bruce Charlton said...

@dl - I think being 'a genius' is more a matter of what the genius is prepared to sacrifice, than a matter of being recognized by society. If the genius-type successfully creates something, he *may* personally be recognized then, but not necessarily so.

The destiny of a genius is between him and God, really. The genius is 'for' the benefit of the group - not for his own benefit.

The crucial matter is whether a particular society at a particular time is able to make use of the creative work of its geniuses - as happened in The West in the past; or completely fail to get anything from its geniuses (but instead completely ignore, suppress and persecute them) - as at present.

Nicholas Fulford said...

Intelligence is necessary - though it is not sufficient.

Creativity is necessary, and is likewise not sufficient.

An overriding and insatiable thirst to explore some thing, and to not be stopped is absolutely necessary to realise the potential of genius. It is a matter of struggling with something vexing and never throwing in the towel. For some they could not throw in the towel because it is just not part of their temperament. So tenacity in the face of adversity is essential as well.

A certain level of being anti-social usually accompanies genius. (A genius is so focussed on his or her "mission", that it often precludes spending much time on social pursuits and skills - including family.)

Santoculto said...

I developed conceptually two types of creative, continuous and discontinuous. The continuous creative would be one that has a lot of ideas a day while the discontinuous would be one that has creativity above average in combination with a cognitive profile that is consistent with what the system needs, the symmetrical cognitive and technical profile.

Creative and especially the creative genius that would be provided by asymmetric intelligence, which is the source for the super specialization and demonstration or proof of genius.

The continuous creative is the one who is most disadvantaged in relation to unilateral meritocratic system that strongly focuses on symmetrical and technical profiles, the system wants maintainers rather than problem solvers, because the system is the largest of all the problems.