I’m watching the latest season of the X factor UK.
I so love music.
I mean, I really love music.
I play the guitar and the piano, not too well and you might know that I believe that failure is not a fact, it’s just a concept. Well, according to societal conditioning I have failed to learn to read music for the piano. Multiple attempts over many years and I still can’t read beyond grade 1 level.
But is it in fact a failure or just a disappointment?
I think the latter.
Interestingly our cat Guinevere, who died a few months ago – wrote a blog about that – loved my piano playing. She would approach from some distance and rub up against my legs whenever I played. Amy, another cat hates it. As soon as my fingers touch the keys, she bolts from the room.
I wonder who is the better judge of my music?
Back to the X factor.
The Roman Games
The Romanesque, gladiatorial, competitive, manipulative, hype aspect of this story…I just ignore that.
No question I would have been a musician/singer, if I hadn’t had more talent for psychology.
Problem is, I would have been a very average musician.
When I watch these people come on stage – in the initial stages of the competition – mostly looking anxious and self-conscious and vulnerable and then breaking into song, it just fills my heart to overflowing.
To see them move from self-conscious and self-doubting vulnerability to such a shining expression of joy is deeply touching and uplifting. Many of them seem so shocked at the wonderful response they get.
There are a few really arrogant ones, but it seems to me that mostly, the best of them, have little idea of their own magnificence and this shining genius seems to be so at odds with the anxiety, the self-consciousness.
It’s just fascinating how endemic self-doubt is in our culture.
What is self-doubt?
It’s chopping our personalities into little pieces and scattering them to the wind and then spending the rest of our lives trying to put the pieces together.
I never used to believe that we all have genius.
I now do.
Something changed in me and I know precisely what it was.
I never thought I was very special.
Not Much Self-Esteem.
I thought that the geniuses of the world where people like Mandela, or Gandhi, or Einstein, or Martin Luther King, or Marie Curie, or Branson, or Henry Ford, or Mother Teresa and not to forget dear Sigmund Freud.
Closer to home I thought it was my classmates at school who got six distinctions in their final year, or those who graduated cum laude from university, or people who started their own businesses and made millions, or became famous artists or whomever seemed superior to me.
Then I see so many people like this who have these kinds of achievements, who still don’t think they are good enough.
Here’s the thing.
Genius isn’t just in what we do.
The sad thing is this is the way our culture rates genius.
There is one shining example that illustrates the absurdity of this.
Vincent Van Gough
In his own lifetime he was considered an utter failure, not remotely a genius and yet his paintings have sold for up to $82 million a piece!
Which suggests that we are not always particularly good at recognizing genius in action.
Copernicus discovered that the earth goes around the sun, not the other way around.
A monumental discovery.
It took society 200 years for society to acknowledge this!
So what is genius?
The dictionary definition is, “exceptional intellectual or creative power or other natural ability.”
With the utmost modesty I would like to suggest that this is a mistake. This definition prevents us from seeing and appreciating how we are unique in our own special way.
I think that genius reflects the uniqueness of our personalities.
Yes, there is something special when someone sings beautifully or produces something magically creative whether it be painting or an artwork or a contraption that cleans up the Pacific garbage patch, or the iPhone, but that energy, that beauty is there in all of us and it can be felt and sensed if you can let go of the drowning, drumming anguish of the tormented mind which most of us carry in some form or another.
The immense value of great artists and performers is that they touch that inside of us that is magnificent. The joy of our unique spirit, which can shine like the sun, through and out of us.
The problem with seeing genius in achievement is that we miss so much or our specialness. Have you ever heard someone say, “She’s a genius at intimacy or empathy or at letting go of negativity or at listening or his sense of humour is spectacular?” Or most simply, “I have a beautiful, open and loving heart.”
I have had so many clients over the years who just have an amazing, spirited energy, an ability to engage and connect that is so uplifting and inspired. At best they believe they are not good enough, at worst they feel that they are garbage.
If we can but slip beneath the absurd idea that genius is only reflected in achievement I think we can come to love ourselves in a more expanded and deeper way, perhaps touching the magic that we truly are.
If you would like to meet face to face or via Skype to discuss any of the issues raised in this blog, please drop me a mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Savina Redpath says
We all need to recognise the genius in ourselves, we all have it but we like to measure up to something or someone all the time. The title of your your book Mark, “Love yourself for no reason” is good enough for me!! My own book is my genius at work too!! Good enough for Me Too!! Thanks for reminding Me!!