How do geniuses fare in life? Is their success inevitable? I ask this for a reason. Today, someone from Washingtonville, New York, arrived on my blog with the provocative search terms: "Why do geniuses often fail in life?"
Well, one wonders, firstly: do they? It is difficult to answer this question, for there are no stats to bring to bear on the matter, that I know of. However, it is easy to source anecdotes which suggest that many people, of great talent, live lives beneath their potential. We all, in fact, know such people: people whose intelligence sparkles, in conversation, but whose lives look a little dull by comparison - something is missing, something never happened.
So, let us assume that the assumption of my blog searcher from Washingtonville, is correct. Let us take it that geniuses do often fail in life. Yet, is that the right question? I think we should rather be asking why does life fail geniuses?
You see, the life of a genius is not the easy picture everyone seems to think. There is the basic assumption, of all, that the greatest of intellectual gifts mean that the possessor is blessed with an "easy life" and that, in some way, one should be envious of them. This is, I think, a misplaced envy. Genius is not an easy burden: it is to carry the weight of expectations of a humanity unwilling to help. Everyone expects great things of the "genius" - but they expect them begrudgingly, not really wanting the genius to accomplish them, for how "bad" it would make the ordinary person look by comparison. Thus, the achievement is both expected and resented beforehand. It is a strange circumstance, for the genius is resented for things not yet done: a jealousy permeates the air, for achievements not yet made and which may never be made. It is most bizarre. It is as if the whole of the rest of humanity, imagines the genius' "fated" future life and begrudges them for its lustre - then sits back and hopes desperately that it doesn't happen - or does, more to the point, everything they can to frustrate all progress.
No-one, on Earth, is more hated than a genius, in their early years. Their self-evident gift is a spur to every darker emotion in people: hate and envy gleam in every eye - and for what? Because those others, see, they know
that the genius is "better" than they are - and they loathe them for it.
To be a genius is thus to be barred from acceptance by humanity. It is to be thrust out, by an essential difference, into a category of one's own. It is a great thing to be a genius - for, Humanity is only ever united in the presence of one: united in envy of the "Great One".
It is a truth, that all of significant talent, come to observe - that the only admired genius, is a dead genius. It is, you see, impossible to be envious of the dead. Thus, only when a genius is safely interred, will the envy slough away, and the admiration come to the fore. Geniuses have the bizarre distinction of being universally hated in life, and universally loved in death. Most people would rather choose the opposite condition - but it is not for the genius to choose: they were born the way they are and cannot trade it for the alternative. So long as they rise far above the common herd of man, that herd, that sheep-like mass, will despise them for it. That leads us to why so many geniuses "fail".
The only course of action, for a genius who wishes to have a happy life, is to give up being who they are. A genius who "fails" is an ordinary man, once more. A genius who "fails" may be accepted, finally. A genius who "fails" is one who succeeds, in life. For, it is clear, that if a genius fails, they come to be seen to be human again. They can, for the very first time, be embraced as "one of us" - and so, at last, at long, long, last, be befriended by the bulk of Man. A genius who "fails" is a genius who learns how to be loved in life - and forgotten in death.
So, the dilemma of a genius is a difficult one. They must choose either to succeed in becoming who they should be, in expressing what only they can see, and, therefore, step so far outside the limits of the common Man, that there could never be anything in common with that Man. Or they can choose to hide their essence, to leave their thoughts unexpressed and undeveloped, to muffle their inner longings to create and become a semblance of what others are. They can choose to be "normal" or, at least, seem normal in every functional way, by not functioning outside of the norm. If they make this choice, they lose the happiness and sense of fulfilment that attends the highest creative activity - but they gain, in return, acceptance by the wider world; they may be embraced by the community, loved as every "ordinary joe" is loved - in that diffuse kind of way, that comes from thinking that "you" are "one of us".
So, it is not geniuses who fail in life. It is life that fails geniuses. Life fails geniuses by not allowing them the space to be. A genius must choose either a life within the community - or a life outside of it, in a very real sense. You see, if your work, the products of your mind and, indeed, the fullness of your inner thought, are beyond the understanding of the common man, then you, truly, have nothing in common with that man. There is no means to find genuine mutual understanding. It is to be a natural outsider - and, as you probably know, most people never reach out to the outsiders of this world - in fact, they enjoy debarring them, from the shared discourse of all. They feel unified by their act of exclusion.
Geniuses fail, because no-one wants them to succeed - or at least, no-one wants a living genius to succeed. They are quite happy to note that a dead genius, did, since there is nothing threatening about the mental powers of a corpse. Indeed, most living people have the mental powers of a corpse - so they probably feel quite well-disposed to one just like themselves, once the genius has died.
Geniuses discover that there is nothing more adept at working together, than the whole of Man, against the genius, if they are so foolish, as to reveal themselves. Thus, the socially skilled genius (no doubt there are some), notes this and chooses dissemblance - and the most effective means of disguising genius is to do nothing with it, at all. There. Done. "Happy"...but unfulfilled.
Indeed, it seems to me that the only geniuses who would not choose to make this choice are the socially inept geniuses. These would not, perhaps, understand the problem, would not act appropriately upon it, and persist in - oh the cheek of it! - being true to themselves and continue to create their works that so offend Man, whilst they live, but shall so delight them, once they die.
Thus, it is not that geniuses lack social skills - it is just that the only geniuses that we come to acknowledge as geniuses (usually after they are safely decomposed) - are the ones who lacked the social skill to work out how to "fit in" and be socially accepted.
So, there is one thing that a genius may never do, in public, and be accepted - and that is: create! As long as the genius persists in being incapable of being a genius, then they will find themselves quite capable of being loved by all.
So, if you are a genius - what choice have you made: to be loved in life, and forgotten in death...or loathed in life, and loved forevermore, once you are no longer able to feel it?
It is not much of a choice, is it?
Well, there is a solution. Any society which welcomed genius, would suddenly find that it had more of them. Thus, the answer is in all your hands: accept geniuses for what they are, love them for what they do - and don't for a minute feel a twinge of envy. If you can manage this, if the whole of Mankind can manage this, life for all would improve at an immense rate, as all the world's dissembling, self-defeating, "fitting-in" geniuses suddenly get to work, without fear of being loathed for it.
Overnight, there would be a revolution in the fortunes of Man - and all you have to do is stop hating and start loving. Now.
(If you would like to learn more of Ainan Celeste Cawley, a scientific child prodigy, aged eight years and seven months, or his gifted brothers, Fintan, five years exactly, and Tiarnan, twenty-eight months, please go to:http://scientific-child-prodigy.blogspot.com/2006/10/scientific-child-prodigy-guide.html I also write of gifted education, IQ, intelligence, the Irish, the Malays, Singapore, College, University, Chemistry, Science, genetics, left-handedness, precocity, child prodigy, child genius, baby genius, adult genius, savant, wunderkind, wonderkind, genio, гений ребенок prodigy, genie, μεγαλοφυία θαύμα παιδιών, bambino, kind.
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As I write, the listing is new and brief - however, by the time you read this it might have a dozen or a score of credits...so please do take a look. My son, Ainan Celeste Cawley, also has an IMDb listing. His is found at: http://www.imdb.com/name/nm3305973/
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Labels: adult genius, genius and solitude, how to advance society, repression, self-expression, social acceptance, social skills, The future of the Human race