Ingenium

I’m currently reading Hans Eysenck’s Genius, a scientific and historical investigation of creativity. The insights into the minds of those we call Genius is astounding, and I think we could all learn how to be little bit more crazy, and also not crazy…

We derive the word Genius from the latin word Ingenium, meaning both natural disposition and innate ability.

Plutarch described the reasons for Archimedes’ exceptional mathematical ability in geometry.

Some attribute this to the natural endowments of the man, others think it was the result of exceeding labour that everything done by him appeared to have been done without labour and with ease. For although by his own efforts no-one could discover the proof, yet as soon as he learns it, he takes credit that he could have discovered it. . . . For these reasons there is no need to disbelieve the stories told about him – how, continually bewitched by some familiar siren dwelling with him, he forgot his food and neglected the car of his body, and how, when he was dragged by force, as often happened, to the place for bathing and anointing, he would draw geometrical figures in the hearths, and draw lines with his finger in the oil with which his body was anointed, being overcome by great pleasure and in truth inspired of the Muses.

Plutarch

Eysenck points out that this description of Archimedes’ genius contains all of the prominent aspects written about by future authors; natural endowment (intelligence), hard work, divine inspiration (creativity), and a personality which indulges in behaviour which is distinctly unusual (or in other words, anyone without the achievements to justify their behaviour would likely be classified as mad).

Basically, Geniuses are crazy people, who are paradoxically not crazy. Creativity and instability often go hand in hand. I’m convinced that we all have a little bit of crazy in us, waiting to emerge. Ernest Becker thought that we were all crazy, and we simply suppress our madness in order to engage in culture. Engaging in culture allows us to fulfill the symbolic requirements of our minds and survive the fears of life. Geniuses on the other hand, seem to be acutely aware of the fears of life, and dramatically disengaged from culture. They often do not take part in the game, but they create their own.

Shakespeare is one of the best examples. Often writing his plays in 24 hour periods, Shakespeare has created thousands of words and phrases which are still spoken today. He was also completely insane. I think everyone could toy with their crazy side a little bit more, it might make life more fun, and who knows, it might bring success as well.

Hustle it up!

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