Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Brilliant or Flawed?

Are they mutually exclusive? I think they often go together, actually. Think of any great and lasting invention over the centuries. It's conception must have been brilliant, but the first model was likely flawed.

For many years, I have pondered the relationship between mental disorders and extraordinary thought. It started when I saw A Beautiful Mind. I like the movie, but I love it's title. The idea of a "flawed" mind as beautiful is intriguing and romantic. I mean, John Nash was delusional and yet absolutely ingenious. Van Gogh was insane but will be forever remembered as a brilliant painter. Starry Night is my favorite painting. In the swirling sky, I see the reflection of my muddled mind and tormented soul. I imagine Vincent sitting in front of his canvas feeling much the same as I do when I look at it. I often think that one of the reasons I am insightful is that I am not right in the head, so to speak. It makes sense to me.

What does it mean to have a psychological disorder? Essentially, it means that one perceives the world in a way that society views as abnormal, irrational. It means one has a different perspective. People appreciate the importance of taking perspective so long as it does not stray too far from the norm. But to be truly brilliant, one has to think unlike the rest of the world, to see what no one else can see. John Nash literally saw things--people!--no one else could see. Van Gogh saw the inside of a trouble mind and soul. And they both created something from that.

I do not mean to imply that all my irrational thoughts are brilliance in disguise, nor do I mean to compare myself to icons of our modern world. I am just reminding myself that this trial, like every other, serves a purpose greater than I imagine.

1 comment:

The Dancing Newt said...

My dad always talks about what he describes as "manic" --- that intense, all-encompassing energy which drives brilliant creative processes. It's not sustainable in the long-term, not really healthy, but you are so right: it's beautiful when channeled in a positive direction.

And I think that is at least a part of what life is all about. Learning to channel what we've been given into a positive direction.