“Conversation enriches the understanding; but solitude is the school of genius.” – Edward Gibbon (English historian
Words of wisdom yours truly stumbled across yesterday morning. Thankfully, this stumble didn’t result in injury; instead my only concern upon reading this adage was gaining an informed insight into the 18th century writer’s notion.
Footnote – You may wonder why I felt the need to suffix ‘yesterday” with the word ‘morning’. After all, it adds nothing to the narrative other than unnecessarily elongating the prose. Well, I put great store in the teachings of Mitchell Chore, chairman of Thorough Writers Are Transcendent (TWAT), whose quirky advocations include “Thoroughness is next to godliness.”
Anyhow, was Gibbon endeavouring to enlighten audiences that, in his opinion, achieving genius requires an undefined period of time in solitude? This isolation necessary to concentrate the mind, nurturing potential to it’s max. A pinnacle he believed could only be attained by, at some juncture, embracing distraction free, self-imposed exile.
Upon reading the quotation it particularly resonated with me as solitude in COVID-induced lockdown is the undesired new black for many. However, all maybe not lost as if Gibbon’s advocacy bears any truth, from the ashes of our restricted lifestyles may rise another Einstein, Wilde, Keats, Picasso and Good Morning Britain presenter Lorraine Kelly.
This ‘Class of 2021’ graduates, like Gibbon, not merely lauded by life time contemporaries, but also by generations hence. For instance, as many bluster in disenchantment during isolation, as we speak maybe an engineer in Tipton, West Midlands, is inventing a machine to effectively pick up dog poop. An innovation I’d personally class as genius.
Or in Clacton, Essex, there’s possibly final testing for an innovative new theatre snack of infrared popcorn being embarked upon. A creation which’d make it a darned sight easier to consume the snack in a dark cinema; meaning less waste and possibly negating a need to eat the teeth breaking unpopped corns at the bucket bottom.
These inventive designers grasping the nettle, whether they realise it or not, utilising enforced residential incarceration productively, validating Gibbon’s notion of benefits in hermitry. Their isolation affording opportunity to chase a long held aspiration. As Rodgers and Hammerstein wrote within the South Pacific refrain ‘Happy Talk’, “You’ve got to have a dream; if you don’t have a dream. how you gonna have a dream come true?”
To clarify, I doubt creators of a mechanical pooper scooper and/or infrared popcorn were in Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein’s thoughts when they wrote of the importance of aspirations. Regardless, though, the adage still rings true for any show of ambition.
Admittedly, my interpretation of Edward Gibbon’s meaning of “Conversation enriches the understanding; but solitude is the school of genius.” maybe wide of the mark.
Attaining the title of genius is a pretty subjective accolade to acquire, after all there’s no genius-o-meter to rely upon for objectivity. The epithet is generally bequeathed aimlessly at recipients by consensus of a fanbase and/or commentator.
There’s no half-assed clap-o-meter, similar to that seen in 1960s/70s talent show Opportunity Knocks, indicating the parameters a person must attain to reach this kudos plateau.
Not that it really matters, in my assessment the moniker gets oft handed out too hastily in the direction of many unworthy of this accolade. On the face of it, individuals bearing a title of genius is small potatoes to us lesser mortals. The decoration impacting our lives not one jot.
I’d proffer when embarking upon the odyssey leading to the prestigious badge, being labelled a genius in their field would’ve been the furthest thing from their mind on journey’s onset.
According to late US Marine Corps four-star general “True genius lies not in doing the extraordinary things, but in doing ordinary things extraordinary well.” An erudite positing which bears but one flaw; that of which criteria (and by whom) it’s established how extraordinary is achieved.
Anyhow, I’m off to locate further quotes from the intelligentsia. Analysis within the loose leafs of my blogging site may, or may not, follow at some juncture…….. Have a great day…… Oh, and don’t forget to unearth your genius during solitude.