This is an except from Mind Macros 06.
“We suffer from excessive respect. We are taught to admire the minds of astonishing figures such as Michelangelo, Aristotle, Plato, di Lampedusa or Montaigne. We are invited to stand in awe at the achievements of these geniuses, but we are also made to feel that their thought processes must be quasi-magical and their ability to produce the ideas for which we know them ultimately mysterious. But there is a radically different view, suggested by a prescient quote from the American writer Ralph Waldo Emerson: In the minds of geniuses, we find – once more – our own neglected thoughts.
“What this tells us is that the genius doesn’t have different kinds of thoughts from the rest of us; they simply take them more seriously. We ourselves will often have our own sketchy, hesitant version of their ideas, which is why their works can have such a distinct impression on us. What they present feels surprising and impressive, yet also obvious and right, once it has been pointed out. They clearly and powerfully articulate notions that are already familiar to us because we’ve been circling them ourselves, possibly for years, without properly closing in on them due to our modesty.” — From How to Think More Effectively by The School of Life
Independent thinking is one tenet of a genius. This process requires listening to our inner dialogue and having enough faith to express and develop our ideas in public. Much of this internal narration is ignored in favor of a more articulate quote from a historical figure. Rather than trusting ourselves, we defer judgment to who society trusts. Leonardo da Vinci, Iris Murdoch, and Socrates are easier to quote than our intuition.
However, what if it’s precisely in these moments when we close down and censor ourselves that we should be paying closer attention and pulling on our instinctual threads?