Genius and the Myth of Common Sense

everything-is-obvious-once-you-know-the-answerWhen was the last time you saw a movie, read a book, listened to a piece of music, read a comic, heard a speaker, watched a TV show and so on where you had the gut-immediate reaction that what you’d just felt was sheer genius?

Keep that in mind…

When was the last time you went to see, hear, experience, etc. etc. etc. something that just everyone was saying was the be-all, end-all of genius… and your own reaction was, well… is that all there is?

The difference between individual vs. crowd assessment of brilliance is part of what Duncan J. Watts calls circular reasoning, as in, the Mona Lisa if famous because it’s, well, more like the Mona Lisa than anything else. He also calls it The Madness of Crowds.

If you think the Mona Lisa really is the best art in the world then that’s fine. But if you think another work of art beats the Mona Lisa hands-down then you’ve already come up with your own definition of genius in art. And why shouldn’t you? It’s one thing to want to be perceived as part of the in crowd – and that’s fine. It’s entirely another thing if you also demand a genuine, personal feeling of inspiration from art… whether it’s what the crowd agrees with or not.

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