The other day I read some unusual poems. The poet wasn't famous for his poetry; in fact, he is a well-known artist, a painter. But the verses were so original and unconventional that they struck me, as I'm struck by any art that refuses to conform to convention, regardless of the subject or medium. It feels like the ghost of an old schoolteacher shaking a disapproving finger at my soul, scolding me for not remembering a lesson I should have learned by now. The frame of mind this kind of art puts me into is worth more to me than its content or message.
believe your own thoughts—
to believe that what is true for you
in your private heart
is true for everyone—
that is genius.
Say your secret belief out loud and it becomes the truth of the universe. In time, the innermost idea will expand to the outermost edge of the cosmos, and our first thought will be echoed back to us in the dying notes of the end of eternity.
As brilliant as they were, the true contribution of Moses, Plato, Jesus, and the like is that they sidestepped history and tradition and spoke their own mind, not a rehash of what the experts agreed on.
True brilliance is noticing the little gleam
that flashes through your own mind from within,
not the neon signs of experts and world leaders.
But we give up on our own thoughts without a fight, simply because they are ours! In every work of genius, don't we recognize our own rejected thoughts? They return to us with a certain alienated majesty.
The most important lesson we can learn from great works of art is this: to stand behind our spontaneous impression with gentle firmness, even and especially when the fans are all cheering for the other side. And if we don't? Tomorrow some stranger will come along and say quite eloquently what we thought and felt all the time, and we'll have to shamefully take our own opinion from someone else.
Last Edited: May 03, 2000
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© 1996 Richard Brodie. All rights reserved.