We all know what genius means in the modern sense of the word: people like Einstein, Shakespeare, Leonardo, and Beethoven. As far as I know, the image of the solitary genius, often suffering and at odds with the culture, is an artifact of the romantic era. The word and original concept came from Rome, where it meant something else.
“In ancient Roman religion, the genius was the individual instance of a general divine nature that is present in every individual person, place, or thing. The rational powers and abilities of each and every human being were attributed to his soul, which was a genius.” Wikipedia.
In his blog on the Huffington post, Michael Meade has started a series on genius that delves into this classical meaning. Meade says:
“Genius involves deeply subjective qualities and an inner pattern that marks each person as unique in some way and genius tries to leave that mark on the world. Since the genius in a person is ageless it can awaken at almost any age.”
He then adds,
“An old Greek word for happiness translates as having a satisfied genius. Recognizing and following the promptings of one’s inner-genius can be one of the most fulfilling experiences of life even if all else has been reduced to garbage and scraps.”
In these terms, genius has little to do with most of our cultural assumptions about the word, like IQ, conventional success, or 15 minutes of fame. It is more like what we mean when we speak of “marching to one’s own drummer.”
I invite everyone to read Meade’s post and watch for the next in his series which will focus on “the genius zone.”