Saturday, December 12, 2009

The Root Of All Genius

Malcolm Gladwell said is his book Outliers that genius is the passionate love that a person has for a particular activity, that through their efforts and permutatations, inevitably tranforms the activity itself for all those who follow. He makes a point in an interview with Robert Krulwich of NPR that people are always quick to regard genius as a result of immense talent. Gladwell says that though talent is an integral part of genius, it is by no means the end-all, be-all of genius. I would like to take this even further to say that natural born talent is not necessary at all. After all, Elvis Presley at first was told by a record station owner to stick to truck driving because his musical talent was awful.

I would like to give a glimpse into the root of all genius and say that the very element of genius itself seems to always come in the form of being a substitution for love and intimacy. Examples include Michael Jackson, Mozart, and Beethoven just to name a few. If you look at the childlife of these geniuses, they were constantly either beaten or neglected by their parents, which had a profound effect on their psychology. They substituted the love of an activity for the love they needed to express to a human being. Their expression through their chosen activity resulted in a conditioned response of feelings of love and intimacy that they lacked from others.

A troubled homelife isn't always the case, this love and intimacy substitution can come from something such as not fitting in with other kids or being an outcast. This lack of social calibration causes outward displays of love to be rejected and thus not returned.

The basic need of a human being to feel accepted and loved is vital to our social nature. When it is rejected, people often turn to a form of mental masturbation, a form of self-pleasure by engaging in an activity. This constant engagement in the activity serves as an outlet for these repressed feelings and inevitably produces feelings of love as a conditioned response.

The greatest modern day example of this would be Lady Gaga. In interviews, she always said when she was younger she always felt like a freak and didn't fit in with other kids in high school. Therefore, as a result of social rejection, she turned to music as an outlet which became the activity that produced a conditioned response of feelings of love and intimacy for her.

But being social creatures, what purpose does 'genius' ability serve? Does this mean in tribal days, those who didn't fit in were cast out of society and left to die in the wilderness? Or could it be that genius serves a societal function after all?

I think that 'genius' is an evolutionary response to social awkwardness. If we place ourselves in the position of a socially awkward person in a tribe of twelve people approximately 20,000 years ago, our inability to socialize could inevitably have lead to us not being able to find a mate. Because we are unable to gain the social value of being accepted into a group, finding a mate would be inexplicably hard because if someone within the tribe were to mate with us, they too would be outcasted.

Therefore, as a survival mechanism the brain uses love/intimacy substitution within a specific activity in order for that person to get their needed feelings of love/intimacy. In the process of this, the person becomes well practiced and masterful within that activity, which thus translates into a huge amount of social value because of their usefulness and thus possible acceptance from the tribe.

I think it'd be safe to say that Lady Gaga doesn't feel so outcasted anymore...