You May Not Be a Genius

Cover of "Eat, Pray, Love: One Woman's Se...
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But you–yes you–have one.

In this TED talk, Elizabeth Gilbert, author of Eat, Pray, Love, gently urges the hopeful creative soul to let go torturing themselves to “be creative” with the notion that, as other cultures have held, genius (think genie) is a force that acts through us, not an obligation upon us.

If you are are if you care for someone with creative pressures, careful attention to this 20 minute reflection is time well spent.

I have a thread of thought somewhere in my to-write-about stack based on the notion I heard in a sermon on the word “created” in the Bible.

The theologian remarked that the idea that humans create anything is historically a new one. Over most of our past, man has held the notion that only God creates–that forming the new from nothing (ex nihilo) is divine. And truly, most human creativity is derivative, as if we are passing down a legacy whose source extends to our very beginnings in ways we poorly understand.

That we ever hold that spark of creativity is a blessing; wanting to possess it and control it absolutely and always is a curse and a delusion. Think of the most creative among us who have suffered depression, alcoholism, and suicide from the mistaken oppression that society has placed on them to be perpetually and productively creative.

Genius comes when it will. We just have to show up to meet it–and be ready to reach out and hold it lightly and cherish its presence for as long as it will stay with us.

“Man hopes. Genius creates.”  ~ Emerson

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Fred First holds masters degrees in Vertebrate Zoology and physical therapy, and has been a biology teacher and physical therapist by profession. He moved to southwest Virginia in 1975 and to Floyd County in 1997. He maintains a daily photo-blog, broadcasts essays on the Roanoke NPR station, and contributes regular columns for the Floyd Press and Roanoke's Star Sentinel. His two non-fiction books, Slow Road Home and his recent What We Hold in Our Hands, celebrate the riches that we possess in our families and communities, our natural bounty, social capital and Appalachian cultures old and new. He has served on the Jacksonville Center Board of Directors and is newly active in the Sustain Floyd organization. He lives in northeastern Floyd County on the headwaters of the Roanoke River.

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  1. Bravo! As a creative person I resonate with what you say. Many creative people, me included, say that their work came through them, as if something else is using the person. “That we ever hold that spark of creativity is a blessing.” Yes, I think that’s why the joy of creativity is primarily in the process. Thank you for succinctly expressing this idea.

  2. Great column Fred…

    Reminded of two things – the Latin for educate, educo which means “to lead out.” And the Marianne Williamson poem “My Greatest Fear.” It was used to great effect in “Akeelah and the Bee.” Music, athletics, writing, all the arts – the magic happens when we finally let go…