Genius and Insanity: We walkin’ that fine line

Am I a genius because I can admit, understand, and know certain levels of insanity I possess?  Or am I insane because I’d even suggest that I have my own brand of genius?  On a side note, I despise puzzle and logic games because I get stumped and realize that someone was smart enough to create these brainteasers and that means someone is smart enough to solve it, and thus, my limitations become glaring.  We cannot be perfect, which is a bummer.  But perfection was never intended, whether you think of it metaphysically or in the evolutionary sense.
There is a curse aspect to genius.  Genius often comes with shades of insanity which makes having a gift incredibly REAL?  Reality check kind of real.  I love the ridiculous honesty of Aubrey Drake Graham when he raps “what am i doin?…what am I doin?”  when explaining the price of his genius and the confusion his prodigious capabilities can and will create.  He quickly responds in the same song and the same hook, with surety, but as though he had to be reminded, “oh that’s right…I’m doin ME!”  If you want to be aware of the gifts you possess, the things that make you a genius, you have to be willing to live with and give voice to that small or large narcissist, exploiter, depressive realist, or all out monster that is inside of you.  How about a rock reference courtesy of Portugal The Man “there’s a madness in us all.”  If you wish for a non-music reference…one from an “intellectual”, then, Albert Camus:  “Forever I shall be a stranger to myself”.

Art is the way a genius creates and expresses what they feel.  Art takes a different route than what some system would prefer.  At its purest the effort gives no mind to the monetary gain that comes from the creative process.  Genius may be aware that money is a potential  byproduct, but that matters less and less when tasting the satisfaction of seeing a vision enacted.  Oddly enough, as art and genius become less and less motivated by greed, success and happiness follow.  This is not to say that profit does not result or that such is immoral.   What is more important is the message an artist wishes to convey or the experience and emotion they wish to evoke.  Artistic genius creates something more than a product for consumers.  Art communicates a raw human experience and a fulfills a more fundamental need.

At times a  guitarist on stage closes his eyes and is aware of nothing but  the strings at his fingertips and the sweat on his brow from the stage lights.  I stand in the crowd and have no quarrel with the fact that I am gone  to him.  I hear the  music he creates and can sense what it means to him.  I participate in the process as his music has new meaning for me.  Entertainment is cheap…art, musicianship, a pure form of his genius channeled through a performance is what I want to experience.

“Art is the supreme task and the truly metaphysical activity in this life.” -Friedrich Nietzsche

(Let art not be constrained to painting, drawing, sculpture, and the like…it goes much further)

Genius is not all about the art that is possible as a result of it.   Life’s complicated cognitions, never ending connections, and infinite ways in which neurons fire, become exhausting and for some lead to loneliness.  Genius has a lonely vision.  Genius sees the world for the sham that it can be and wonders how they have become participants.  The collective mind, while capable of ridiculous complexity and innovation, also demonstrates sheer stupidity, ignorance, and atrocity.  It is only on the backs of the greatest minds that humanities fragile systems are perpetuated, whether good or evil.  Genius refuses to be swept away but wonders how bring to enact change.   A form of paradox is evident here.  The system and the many lies created by it…the system and the many insults towards true freedom instituted by it…the system and the unacknowledged ill effects proliferated by it, are often obvious to the genius.  However, it is because of unchecked, delusional, irrational, selfish,  ignorantly and consciously evil  genius that the lies and constraints continue and the system goes on.

While the actual neurological components of genius are often coupled with flights of insanity, there are external forces to consider.  The aforementioned paradox is one of them.  The constructs of society and their interplay with the freedom of the individual have become so complex that the genius has been driven to further corners of insanity when trying to consider the solutions and possibilities for fundamental change (whether for good or for ill).  Complacence and loneliness plague those who possess exceptional gifts.  There is a special level of resilience and acceptance that is required of those who persevere  amidst the uncertainty.  Often existential angst and despair along with mental health struggles occur.

-“What is the ideal for mental health, then? A lived, compelling illusion that does not lie about, death, and reality…” – Ernest Becker

Genius can become evil and exploitative. A deeper, darker curse becomes evident.  Brilliance notices the fundamental flaws within the order of things and cannot help but see pregnant opportunities.  Loopholes abound and personal gain entices.  Bernie Madoff was a genius.  Adolf Hitler was a genius.   The evil genius sees the moral obedience of the blind  and uninformed as weakness.  Deeper and more satisfying, more artistic reasoning for an ethical life should then be explored. But instead a genius can rationalize a transformation into villainy.  One can easily be fooled by ones own intelligence into feeling conviction and purpose from even the most heinous of actions.

And herein lies a difficult question.  Genius being a mind made so complex that it could create such beauty and such atrocity: has it really done us good?  We have highways and the internet, blow dryers and microwaves.  But we also  have  North Korea’s brand of  oppression, tunnels underneath the USA’s southern border,  a  drug market  resulting in what is essentially warfare without flags, the fast good generation, Wal-Mart SuperCenters driving down prices and fooling the public into thinking they are buying cheap when the long term impact on the economy is devastation. Examples of unchecked genius abound and continue increasing in scope and heinousness. Deeper scrutiny reveals that we live with the dark side of genius even as we prosper from it.

So where does my post go from here.  I think a more important question is: where does the world go from here?  Where does “society” go?  I know I’m crazy to a degree but I also  have the spark for innovation and insight.  Recognition by the individual is crucial.   We see the madness that goes on around us, the scary implications of humanity’s genius in a global society.  More than ever before humanity has the power of said recognition.   Yet we seem  more intent on proliferating and profiting from our handiwork.  The question of where to go from here is greater than simply saying “I’m an American and trust in those values” or “I have Jesus in my heart and know there is a plan” or “I’m vegan and I volunteer so I’m doing my part” etc etc.  The answer could be one of earlier said existential angst and despair: that it doesn’t matter.  Another can be one of skepticism: that we cannot know.  Or we can have thoughts of hope: that it is all part of a grand plan for our benefit or that the democratic governmental process is the pinnacle of decision making and will lead us to the ideal human experience.  Hope and resolve seem fundamental to a desire  to exist but are any of these answers to the “where do we go question” actually correct?  Not even the greatest genius among us alone could inform, decide, or choose.

Let’s take some time to write (create) for the unseen witnesses; amidst the swirling questions do art for art’s sake.  It’s not the only useful pursuit of genius but often the only one that seems to make sense.  We humans walk a fine line and in spite of a stiff wind the balance seems to be kept.  I wonder to myself what it would take for me to pass completely into my madness and similarly wonder the same concerning our global community.   I sweat the problems and the issues and then I put my fingers to the keyboard and create something satisfying, no thought for gain I put forward what artistic qualities I claim to possess.  Does it give any profound answers?  There is a message, an emotion I wish to evoke, but I write this mostly for my mind to escape rumination upon the unanswerable questions, those things that genius could not even grasp.

“Where the world ceases to be the scene of our personal hopes and wishes, where we face it as free beings admiring, asking and observing, there we enter the realm of Art and Science”
-Albert Einstein