The Genius In Us All

It's about to pour ideas. I can feel it in my body, the swelling storm, the heaviness in my head, the sunshine of sociability hides behind the dark pregnant cloud of solitary sitting. I love rain. I love getting drenched by a flood of ideas. These relatively infrequent moments in the lives of most, dare I say all artists, are fleeting and joyous, perennial, yet precious. And when inspiration hits, we run outside with our buckets and passionately try to capture each drop.

But just the like the rain, creative inspiration, nay, genius, is a gift from above, and if you feel uncomfortable with the word god, or divine, then at least keep thinking of those silver-lined black clouds.

There is a great TED Talks on the exact subject of inspiration by well-loved author Elizabeth Gilbert. In short, she says that in ancient Rome the word 'genius' meant the divine nature within everyone and everything. Somewhere along the timeline of western civilization, 'genius' came to signify individual human talent and excellence, losing its original meaning that linked us to a greater external force.

Gilbert hypothesizes that the burden carried in the classic idea of the struggling artist in fact relates to this shift in what 'genius' meant. If genius was something divine outside of you that you could channel to create magnificent art, then as an artist, you could neither become too egotistical and claim total responsibility for your masterpieces, nor become too depressed when you failed to create anything at all: the best and the worst of your creative efforts could be attributed to your 'genius'. Like Gilbert, I love this idea.

Being pretty much obsessed with the ways in which yoga shows up in art, and art in yoga, Gilbert's thesis reminded me of the yogic concept of ishvara pranidhana, "surrendering to a higher source". The basic idea is that while we have intentions and agency in our lives, the ultimate results of our efforts are outside of our control are beyond our power.

As yogis, our aim is to connect with this higher power, or divine source and embrace the contradictory nature of our life: we are at once all-powerful, and fragile, both sand and stone.

As artists, embracing this yogic concept, or classical paradigm can liberate us from many stressful shackles of creative responsibility. Humility in the face of success, and strength in the face of adversity is a difficult and invaluable balance. I always feel more honest and inspired with my art when I open my perspective to the bigger picture of life, acknowledging greater forces around me, and invite them into my words. We don't exist in a bubble, and neither does our art.  

What is your 'genius'; your unique conduit to the infinite creative powers outside of you? What would it feel like to give up the feeling that your creativity, for better or for worse was a reflection of you? Can you open to that smiling cherub, riding storm clouds sending down raindrops of inspiration?