By Fabian Williams (AKA “Occasional Superstar”)
While scrolling down my Instagram feed, I come across at least two posts a day claiming someone is a genius. Any and everybody: Albert Einstein. Prince. Steve Jobs.
Most recently—Kanye West, via Jimmy Kimmel Live, has been telling the world he’s a genius.
I thought to myself, genius! By doing this, Kanye has essentially made everything that he creates more likely to be received as genius, opening up a number of opportunities that he otherwise may have been overlooked for. As a creative, I can definitely see the benefit in this approach. It’s hard getting new ideas out and accepted. He’s had his share of hits and his mark on fashion cannot be denied. Genius, though, still seems to be a term that he and others use casually which makes my skin itch a bit.
What I find interesting is those we label and self-identify as genius usually fit a specific archetype: rich, famous, male and—outside the art/entertainment world—white.
Meanwhile, Oprah hypnotized soccer moms for a good 15 years with her talk show while building a media empire that includes a namesake magazine and television network. Beyonce rocked Coachella so hard that her fans renamed this year’s festival Beychella. Her performance, which was layered with all types of Kemetic symbolism intermingled with the black college experience, was a performance-art masterclass likely to be taught at Duke University. I’m not a member of the Beyhive (never seen Lemonade) but I had to bow down. Genius, I told my friends who listened to me go on and on about her performance.
So what did I mean?
On the podcast “Unruled,” artist Dubelyoo told listeners “the concept of the genius was a spirit that connected you to a higher form of being which gave you the creativity…it wasn’t a person”.
Genius has not always been perceived the way we talk about it today. In Greek times, the notion of genius was tied to spiritual inspiration, a Daemon, who would whisper ideas to its human host. Everybody and everything had a daemon; me, you, the city, a neighborhood, a country. Once Christianity became the law of the land, Daemons became “demons”, and genius went away altogether. The idea of genius re-emerged in the 18th century when artists acted more like contractors. Those with exceptional talent, however, were said divine inspiration and therefore were considered genius. The wealthy wanting to maintain the appearance of divinity hired these divine artists and thus, the celebrity was born. Peter Drew of Art Vs Reality: What is a Creative Genius (Ep. 5), says, “These days when some charming individual declares that he’s a genius, what they are really saying is, ‘I am so brilliant that I am a little more than just human.’”
I do, however, believe genius is too heavy of a term to carry all the time. Instead, there are moments of brilliance. Steve Jobs didn’t always get it right. Sometimes his ideas were duds. The Newton Messagepad 100, Apple’s digital tablet, for example, created in 1993, didn’t catch on. Prince’s Under The Graffiti Bridge album was not a banger, nor was the movie.
We all fall short.
Some genius does seem to be perpetual—like that of Nikola Tesla, who held 300 patents and inspired another likely genius, Elon Musk, to name a car company after him. Consider the way Tesla talked about receiving concepts and creating his pieces in his mind before building them. He talked about the visions coming into his mind, possibly from the Akashic record: a cosmic memory field that stores permanent records of everything that ever happens in the universe, also known as the ether. Those visions he could twist around and edit before making them. These visions brought us AC/DC electric current, infrared laser…basically the modern age. He built a structure that was able to transmit energy in 1901. He believed that it could not only transmit energy but images and sound as well, all for free. Doesn’t that sound like the internet? The project got pulled as JP Morgan, the financier of the project, didn’t see free energy being profitable (what with it being free and all).
Perhaps if he’d claim to be a genius we’d all have free energy and the lifestyle of the Jetsons.
Yeezy, as entertaining as he is, I don’t believe is a genius. He’s a brilliant self promoter, like his Dragon blood friend, Trump. They both know how to get us to pay attention to what they’re doing. See Ye’s latest TMZ appearance where he argued “slavery was a choice”. That just so happened to be a couple weeks before he released new music. Of course slavery wasn’t a choice and rebellions happened all throughout the evils of slavery. But because of Kanye’s self-proclaimed genius status, his supporters tried to find validity in what was an opinion…and a terribly uniformed one at that.
In my own practice, some of my best ideas I know didn’t come from me. My concepts present themselves, almost like a transmission. It’s as though I am a radio picking up a new tune. I’m no genius but I’ve been able to score some national success from pulling some ideas out of a river of them seemingly floating above my head. I usually get them in the shower, apparently because I’m bored, according to Manoush Zomorodi, host of Note to Self. A highly creative person might find herself bored regularly. The one thing clear to me is ideas don’t generate from within, despite what others might proclaim.
For instance, mathematician Srinivasa Ramanujan would often say that his mathematical ideas would come to him in visions via the Goddess Namagiri. His theories, 80 years later, are used to study black holes and operate satellites.
Steven Johnson, author of Where Ideas Come From, believes that ideas comes from liquid networks, which refers to the fluidity of thought somewhere between the nebulous idea and the solid fact. In liquid networks, hunches can connect and reconnect with hunches in other minds. I’m just sayin’, it ain’t just you. From my view, I believe everybody has the potential to be a genius because everybody has the ability to receive a great idea or inspiration that is outside of our/their norm. Either by our own special band of cosmic helpers or through being around other minds, those moments of genius come from outside of ourselves. I believe that’s what our ancient family believed about the daemon or genius. Anybody can get it. In my view, everybody is an occasional superstar (looks at the camera and winks).
Anybody can be a genius.