To Be or Not To Be

A little kingdom I possess,
Where thoughts and feelings dwell;
And very hard the task I find
Of governing it well.
-- Louisa May Alcott.
...........hmmm....that more or less describes my situation !!

~A Wise Man Said~

It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it.
-- Aristotle

Saturday, May 03, 2003
The apparent connection between madness and genius has always intrigued me; so also the personalities of great men, who seem to have more than a little in common. Came across a few thoughts by the noted philospoher, Schopenhauer --

"Genius holds up to us the magic glass in which all that is essential and significant appears to us collected and placed in the clearest light, and what is accidental and foreign is left out." Thought pierces through passion as sunlight pours through a cloud, and reveals the heart of things;…The secret of genius, lies in the clear and impartial perception of the objective, the essential and the universal.

It is this removal of the personal equation which leaves the genius so maladapted in the world of wil-ful, practical, personal activity. By seeing so far he does not see what is near; he is imprudent and "queer"; and while his vision is hitched to a star he falls into a well. Hence, partly, the unsociability of the genius; "he is thinking of the fundamental, the universal, the eternal; others are thinking of the temporary, the specific, the immediate; his mind and theirs have no common ground, and never meet." The man of genius has his compensations, and does not need company so much as people who live in perpetual dependence on what is outside them. "The pleasure which he receives from all beauty, the consolations which art affords, the enthusiasm of the artists, . . . enable him to forget the cares of life," and "repay him for the suffering that increases in proportion to the clearness of consciousness, and for his desert loneliness among a different race of men."

The result, however, is that the genius is forced into isolation, and sometimes into madness; the extreme sensitiveness which brings him pain along with imagination and intuition, combines with solitude and maladaptation to break the bonds that hold the mind to reality. Aristotle was right again: "Men distinguished in philosophy, politics, poetry or art appear to be all of a melancholy temperament." The direct connection of madness and genius "is established by the biographies of great men, such as Rousseau, Byron, Alfieri, etc." By a diligent search in lunatic asylums, I have found individual cases of patients who were unquestionably endowed with great talents, and whose genius distinctly appeared through their madness.

Yet in these semi-madmen, these geniuses, lies the true aristocracy of mankind. "With regard to the intellect, nature is highly aristocratic. The distinctions which it has established are greater than those which are made in any country by birth, rank, wealth, or caste." Nature gives genius only to a few because such a temperament would be a hindrance in the normal pursuits of life, which require concentration on the specific and the immediate.