…on genius. A Physicist, a Doctor and a Classicist had dinner…

They debated genius. Specifically, “the myth of genius.” Rendered succinctly, the myth posits that geniuses realise superlative results via revelation rather than hard work.

Scholars’ research divulged that Mozart was not defectless; he drew upon myriad methods: improvisation, sketches, use of a keyboard; this reality belies the tradition that he composed works in his mind so impeccably, he transcribed these sans erratum.

Friends and the handful of readers I enjoy are acquainted with my fondness — nay, ardour! — for Raphael, whose artistic formation was a maturation; behold the astonishing metamorphosis from the study of The Three Graces to the painting: Cupid and the Three Graces.

Richard Feynman was regraded a genius for his theory of quantum electrodynamics, which, elucidated the entirety of Physics. Except gravity.

To be an ordinary person who accomplishes prodigious feats renders the art, the music, the scientific theory all the more staggering. Genius? It may be argued that to be a genius is to remove oneself from humanity. Raphael, Feynman and Mozart, for all their brilliancy, were human.

Friends and handful of readers, you are also aware that I am partial to Emerson (!!), and in our discourse summoned an elucidation which delineates the creative and scientific mechanism:

“The voyage of the best ship is a zigzag line of a hundred tacks. See the line from a sufficient distance, and it straightens itself to the average tendency.”

~ Emerson, Self Reliance

The metaphor is resonant; whilst at sea, one must conduct one’s sails into the wind to advance. Whilst Emerson was specifying our lives and actions, and tacking to “get back on track,” I furthered the allegory in the debate to illuminate creative and scientific journeys: one must redraft the subject matter to attain the ideal painting; adjust the equations to define a plausible scientific theory, rework the music to acquire the ultimate symphony.

Contemplated myopically, Emerson’s “zigzag line” is evident. Considered from afar, the straightened line — unbroken — presents the image of genius.

Genius appears sans struggle, sans effort; however, only when espied from afar.

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