“Everyone is born a genius, but it is drummed out of us almost from the minute we open our eyes.”
That quote is from a book review – the Feministing post Not Oprah’s Book Club: Hurry Down Sunshine. Here is an excerpt:
“In this small but deep memoir by journalist Michael Greenberg we get a bare-all look at his experience of his daughter’s first psychotic break, leading to her bipolar diagnosis and years of struggle for sanity.
“For anyone who has been close to someone with mental health issues, which I imagine, is everyone–this is a really normalizing reading experience. Greenberg doesn’t glamorize his daughter’s illness, nor does he pretend there is no beauty in it. Somehow he strikes a very honest, very self-revealing chord that reminds me–once again–how much a psychotic break can resemble the truth, however scary the mania.
“Case in point: his daughter, Sally, believes that:
“Everyone is born a genius, but it is drummed out of us almost from the minute we open our eyes. Everyone possesses this genius.
“It’s our unmentionable secret. When childhood is over we are afraid to salvage it from within ourselves, because it would be too risky to do so, it would rupture our drone’s pact with society, it would threaten our ability to survive.”
> Book: Hurry Down Sunshine
So what is “genius”?
It has come to refer to prodigy-level exceptional ability, as in “James Cameron is a genius.” But the word has a much wider range of meanings.
“In the ancient world the term ‘genius’ essentially meant the tutelary spirit, the daimon, of every person. The philosophic conviction that each human being is guarded by his or her own spiritual genius was strongly held in Roman times.”
[From Theosophy Trust page The Daimon.]
In his post Getting to Know Your Creative Demon, Part 3, Matt Cardin writes, “Your unconscious mind — your muse or daimon — is the inner genius that presides over your life and houses the deep patterns of creative energy that want to express themselves in and through you.”
Also see his post Rehabilitating the muse.
One of the elements of the movie The Golden Compass that I found really interesting and exciting was the depiction of a person’s daimon as an aware and verbal animal, such as the big cat of Lord Asriel (Daniel Craig) in the photo.
In his review of the movie version, Roger Ebert wrote, “In this world, everyone has a spirit, or daemon, which is visible, audible and accompanies them everywhere.
“When they are with children, these spirits are shape-shifters, but gradually they settle into a shape appropriate for the adult who matures.
“Lyra’s is a chattering little creature who can be a ferret, mouse, fox, cat, even a moth. When two characters threaten each other, their daemons lead the fight.”
Author Philip Pullman explained, “Daemons came into my head suddenly and unexpectedly, but they do have a sort of provenance. One clear origin is Socrates’ daimon. Another is the old idea of the guardian angel.”
[From interview on achuka.co.uk/ppint.htm]
He is author of His Dark Materials Trilogy, including The Golden Compass.
Back to the more commonplace idea of “genius” as “prodigy” or “gifted.”
Myth 8: All children are gifted.
The Reality: Nobody doubts that some children are musical or athletic prodigies. Nobody expects a small kid to become a tight end, or a short child to become a Harlem Globetrotter.
Gifted children are biologically different. If you doubt it, try to raise someone’s 90 IQ to 150.
Myth 9: Gifted children become eminent adults.
The Reality: Personality attributes more reliably predict what will happen in adulthood than does the child’s degree of giftedness.
Maybe it will help us better realize our talents and gain healthier self-regard if we use the idea of ‘genius’ as an inspirational side of our psyche, not some ideal of eminence we don’t meet.
See more posts/articles on genius.