On Talent

Talent has always been valued in the Performing Arts. I’m not sure it is still valued now that the Left finds greater virtue in diversity and equality. Many liberals find even the slightest suggestion of  superiority to be offensive. Instead of recognizing that talent may exist in a diverse group of people, independently of race, gender, sexual orientation, or ethnicity some people want to completely abandon the idea of merit. Even minorities become upset by this refusal to recognize talent because they are being given opportunities on the basis of their skin color, gender, sexual orientation, or ethnicity. While they may welcome the increase in opportunities formerly denied to them what they don’t appreciate is the refusal to assert they are being given an opportunity by virtue of their talent. Ultimately this is just patronizing since you are treating people as if they need a leg up instead of treating them as if they deserve a shot. Instead of acknowledging that an artist deserves a place in our culture you are placing them in the spotlight to demonstrate your virtuous generosity. Unfortunately this results in critical silence. Yes, these artists may be given opportunities that they never had before but nobody is writing about their work or treating them as an artist who has arrived. Where is the acceptance?

Personally I rarely use the word “talent” since I have no talent for acting, singing, or dancing. I am reluctant to even say I have a talent for writing. However, I am a firm believer in genius. Frequently I will hint that I consider myself to be a genius. This never goes over very well. But I insist on making this claim because I’m fascinated by how consistently people react to any claim of genius. They will never allow you to call yourself a genius. To claim genius is to violate a serious social taboo. But where does this taboo come from? It appears to come from the fact that we still consider genius to be sacred. Very little is considered sacred anymore but genius is definitely treated as if it were sacred. Interestingly the concept of genius can be traced back to the ancient Romans and Greeks. The ancient Greeks had the concept of daemon (or daimon), a lesser deity or guiding spirit. This is how the ancients understood the unconscious mind. The ancient Romans later adopted this concept and gave it a new name, genius. For the Romans, genius was an individual instance of a general divine nature that is present in every individual person, place, or thing. To learn more about how the concept of genius has evolved, I recommend the book Divine Fury: A History of Genius by Darrin M. McMahon. So the concept of genius had its origin in religion as a representation of the guiding human spirit and this sense of it being something sacred has never left us.

I consider genius to reside in the unconscious mind. The unconscious mind has greater abilities than are given to the conscious mind. Much of the cognitive effort required to understand the world takes place in the unconscious mind with only the executive functions left to the conscious mind. This is why dreams can seem so much more imaginative than anything you could consciously invent. But individuals with exceptional access to the unconscious mind have access to that greater creativity and a greater sense of purpose and destiny. They don’t have to wait for something to bubble up from their unconscious to give them an eureka moment. When somebody has exceptional access to the unconscious mind  we can say that they have genius or are in a better position to make their genius serve their interests. A genius ought to be aware that he is a genius, even if he cannot explain it. I used to think all artists were geniuses and knew themselves to be geniuses. That is why they consider themselves to be artists! Gradually I have come to realize that few artists have that degree of self-confidence.



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