On Genius

By: Jackson Hogen

Published: September 11, 2018

[After writing Snowbird Secrets, I composed a series of meditations that attempted to dissect its origins. On Genius is from this series. I realize its relevance to skiing is oblique; I offer it here to keep your minds engaged while I research a few of the technical articles I’m composing for your future delectation. This piece is for all the angels who have helped me give voice to my thoughts.]

We have a tendency, in our daily usage, to cheapen the value of words. We choose them carelessly, tossing them out pell-mell, as if sheer volume were a substitute for meaning. But if we pause on a word for a succession of moments, allow it to breathe on its own, its power can be restored until we recognize why we have something so wonderful as this word in the first place.

Few words have been so trampled by vernacular deployment as the term, “genius.” Every field of human endeavor is deemed to be populated by geniuses, giving us marketing geniuses and football coach geniuses, just to name two categories that have yet to produce any actual geniuses. Genius was never meant to be a mere synonym for facility, cleverness, guile or wit. When we pause to hear the word, we know it’s meant to be reserved for something more.

To try to get a better grasp on the slippery sense of genius, let’s look at one of its most oft-referenced sub-sets, the athletic genius. At the elite level, every sport on the planet is loaded with talented practitioners who exert extraordinary effort in the struggle to be the best. A precious few will rise to the level of champion, but even reaching that pinnacle doesn’t automatically confer genius. We want to see more before we dole out the genius moniker, something that awes us, that makes transparent the fathomless gulf separating their skill from ours.

In any generation there aren’t more than 10 athletes that can claim an incorruptible hold on this exalted term. More than merely ultra-adept, they change the way we think about what is possible. Because they are engaged in highly promoted sports, we can all witness their uniqueness and jointly confer the mantle of genius. As we almost all engage in some form of athletic activity at some point in our lives, we feel some connection to these demigods even as we acknowledge their differentness.

Let’s stop kidding ourselves. We all know athletic genius, marvelous as it is, is not cut from the same cloth as mental genius. A sport is always played with a strict set of rules, rules that constrain even the greatest avatars. Tiger Woods can’t make a hole-in-zero. Wayne Gretzky never scored a goal worth five points. Mental genius faces barricades, for sure, but no boundaries. It’s better defined by its indifference to rules rather than finding maximum expression within them.

It might be said of athletic geniuses that to the degree that they are always in their bodies, they are always at work. This notion applies in spades to the mental genius, whose mind is never at rest. It reaches in all directions at once, never seeing an event at fewer than three levels, always cross-referencing on the fly and forever and ever the questioning, turning, flipping, straining to catch a new mind-hold on the fabric of reality.

For now, let’s consider genius the insatiable, tireless cross-referencing and synthesizing of all information sources. Even if we accept this definition, this still doesn’t illuminate the origins of genius. Is it possible that we all got equal portions (despite all evidence to the contrary), yet only a few of us got the operating instructions? If genius is a gift, who bestowed it?

Genius takes a toll on those who lease a foothold in its realm. The wear and tear comes from channeling a power that exceeds normal human capacity, electric energy surging through the body that would fry lesser circuitry. The true genius of genius is knowing to get out of the way. One cannot visit Kant’s Noumenal world of thought thinking thought while hauling the baggage of ego. Genius is never more present than when the self is absent.

Since it’s the job of genius to be suspicious, let’s examine the source of this meditation. Where do I get the nerve to attempt to parse genius, by definition an ineffable quality that is at heart unknowable? Is the messenger mistaking himself for his subject? No, Dear Reader, I merely possess a restless mind.   My temerity in broaching the subject of genius stems from events in the spring of 2012, when in moments of deep concentration I was visited by a vibrational energy so intense it would completely overwhelm my emotions while allowing my conscious mind to construct sentences that would make me weep as I wrote them. I still can’t read some of those passages without breaking down.

So I can’t say for certain what genius is, but I can tell you what it’s like to live, however momentarily, in a state of grace. I’ve come to believe they are one and the same. It is no accident a genius once appeared on my doorstep to remind me of our duty to protect it. Genius is a state of grace built on a foundation of gratitude. It is a gift from the source energy that animates us all.

These words are my gift to you. Having touched the mind of genius, having stood inside an infinite pillar of grace, I can tell you this: all love is light, and all light is love. Honor this truth by always helping those you love move towards the light.

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