Wow, try to connect the dots on this one.
So I’m reading the book Linchpin by Seth Godin, and in that book, he references a TED presentation by Elizabeth Gilbert (author of Eat, Pray, Love) on Nurturing Creativity (http://www.ted.com/talks/lang/eng/elizabeth_gilbert_on_genius.html), which really is a presentation on the pre-Renaissance idea of inspiration coming from an outside source. Gilbert’s ideas come from multiple sources, but Seth Godin states that her main source is from The Gift by Lewis Hyde. I haven’t read the book, so I don’t know if this is correct, but I just ordered it… and I’ll let you know soon.
Anyway, the Greeks called this outside force a daemon (a term I know from SunOS/UNIX programming – their Daemon lives in a box!). This Daemon, not to be confused with a demon, was some form of divine inspiration that would interact with a person from time to time, allowing that person to do extraordinary things. The Romans called their “spiritual sprite” a genius (from where we get the term Genie). Their Genius lived in the walls of an artist’s studio and would come out from time to time to inspire the artist.
To me, this is a lovely notion because it means that if you do something extraordinary, you can’t take the credit for it because the extraordinary bit was done by your Genius. It wasn’t until the Renaissance, when man became the center of everything (Humanism) that men became geniuses, rather than interacting with one. Pre-Renaissance, men and women had a Genius; post-Renaissance men and women (where we are today) were the Genius. Like Elizabeth Gilbert, I believe that the pre-Renaissance idea of having a Genius is a nicer notion. It keeps artists humble, knowing that they are not entirely responsible for their work. It also keeps depressed artists from killing themselves because the burden of being a genius was too much for them.
Get the genie out of the bottle!
Release your genius and get unburdened!
You are not the center of the universe!
Genius comes and goes, but if you are tenacious and do your part (show up and work), a genius will occasionally visit you and you’ll do extraordinary things.
Now, I am an unabashed Christian. I know where my “genius” comes from. It’s God. God inspires me on occasion to do good work. It’s not a genie or a daemon; and hopefully not a demon that does this. God grants gifts to people, and these gifts are on loan. The possessor of these gifts may feel like they own them, but they do not – that’s simply post-Renaissance ideology talking. No, when I am inspired, I give praise to God because I know that He is the source of my “genius.” And like the Greeks, the Romans, and Elizabeth Gilbert, I speak to my Genius; in my case, through prayer; recognizing that he is more than a spiritual sprite, he is the creator of all things.