I used to love this word, genius. Partly because I considered myself one and partly because the word had a wonderful ring to it: exotic, wild, unpredictable, ill-mannered and fantastic at the same time.
We also had a good start; my first contact with the idea was clearly exiting. It came from an old Hungarian book, a translation of Lombroso´s Genius and Insanity. I read this book — full of wild and weird anecdotes, showing how close the madness of the madman is to the madness of the genius — when I was not much older than ten.
The book somehow made things like hypersensitivity and eccentric emotions excusable, even logical. A romantic poet who, when not getting praise for a poem, rushed headlong towards the fireplace, to crush his own head; that was the kind of wild behavior I longed for, dreamed about, but never saw anywhere around me. Not in Tranås.
But through my many years in Sweden, the country with the local god Jan T. (who severely disproves of the exotic, the wild and the fantastic) I gradually learned not to love genius or even to use the word overmuch. I cut myself down to size, Swedish size.
Why am I writing this now? Because tonight when leaving my current watering hole (a combination of café, bookstore and wine shop) I picked up a book by Salvador Dali: Diary of a genius. I was reminded of my old love for outrageous, outré Dali, and of my former delight in the word.
It is no longer a question of Sweden having stolen an old love — the affection for genius — from me. I see that the kind of genius Lombroso wrote about, very fascinating and weird indeed, is something that is not really worked for, or payed for. It is the result, more or less, of experiences and talents gotten in earlier lifetimes, that are now running wild in this lifetime. I can still be fascinated by that, but I don´t admire it any longer.
Still, the absence of people like Salvador Dali or Sebastian Horsley definitely makes life more boring, grey and predictably dull. They not only had entertainment- and shock.-value (everybody can see that) but also called into question our cherished normality, about which Wilhelm Reich have written words in flame in “Listen, little man“.
They were also good looking and successful, which in some people´s eyes (not in mine) disqualifies them. The “suffering genius” exists, but it also takes a kind of genius not to suffer.
Here are two videos exemplifying these sane madmen that Lombroso surely would have written about, had he lived later. Interestingly, both videos are in some way commentaries on CMC, the Continent of McDonald’s and Coca Cola.
I like especially what he says about him not being eccentric at all. “A real character knows that he is pretty much exactly the same as everybody else. “