There is something odd about this quality we call genius. It seems at once part of another plain of reality and yet present everywhere in this life. Now I do not wish to confuse genius with anything else such as beauty or magic, so without further ado I present to you a definition. According to the New Oxford American Dictionary on my computer, genius is: 1. exceptional intellectual or creative power or other natural ability or 2. a person who is exceptionally intelligent or creative, either generally or in some particular respect.
Last weekend I saw The Theory of Everything, a film that relates a version of Professor Stephen Hawking’s life based upon a book written by Jane, his former wife. I was in awe of Hawking’s story and Eddie Redmayne’s portrayal of the genius professor.
The movie got me thinking about what truly qualifies as genius? What I noticed most about the film’s depiction of Hawking was his single-mindedness, his utter devotion to figuring out his so called ‘theory of everything.’ I could not understand his obsession. I cannot comprehend it. To devote one’s life to an idea and to sacrifice so much in the process I found myself wondering if I would be able to do the same. The conclusion that I have come to is a resounding no.
I have never wished for genius. Perhaps in idle hours I have spent time thinking of how wonderful it would be to have a gift – “an exceptional intellectual or creative power” but in the end I come back to earth happy with my reality.
I am no prodigy. I was never tested for a gifted program. I am quite ordinary but will not settle for being labeled as average. As an individual life I am important, this I am confident in, but still there is no skill of mine that truly sets me apart from the crowd. I will never attend Juilliard or appear on Broadway. I will never go into space and discover life on Pluto, which has for the record always been a planet to me. I will not solve the mysteries of the universe or develop mathematical theories that explain well, anything. I will not be part of a championship winning cheerleading squad or dance in the Nutcracker on an international stage. I will not find the Holy Grail or paint the next Mona Lisa.
When I was younger my parents were always very supportive of whatever I wanted to try but they never pushed me. They always made sure that I finished whatever commitments I made to coaches, teachers, or teams but if at the end of a year I did not want to go on I was never forced to continue. Some might call that lax parenting, maybe I could have been the next chart topping artist if only I’d been forced to stick with guitar lessons but I disagree. Force does not need to factor into parenting – setting a good example does. What my parents showed me is that life is too short to spend time doing something that does not make me a better person or make me happy.
My parents gave me a variety of opportunities to get to know myself, my interests, and my skills. They allowed me so much freedom to create my own identity. The time they gave me allowed me to get to know myself.
Is talent born or made? Is genius nurtured by one’s own passion or the mentality projected by exterior factors such as family and friends?
I’m sure someone knows the answers to those questions but I do not and I do not feel the need to know everything. Some questions are meant to be unanswered. Others are not meant to be answered by you or me, they are meant for someone else.
While our world may have been founded upon the work of geniuses I think that people need to remember that genius has a price. It takes a toll.
Genius is not all there is to life.
Do not let ambition run your life; do not allow your dreams to put you in the ground. Remember to live.
*Someone will always be better than you and someone is always worse. Case in point: http://bit.ly/1L9y6bB (Glee Cast Version – Anything Goes/Anything You Can Do)
Do not measure your own skill against others. Be the best version of you at all times even if you’re not exactly sure who “you” is yet. Take your time figuring it out. Life is about discovering who you are not limiting yourself.