Towering Genius

I was listening to the Bill Bennett show driving into work one day a while back. As usual, I was enlightened in that brief 45 minute traffic jam.

A woman called in and offered a wonderful insight. When she was in college a teacher she admired told her this:
(I’m paraphrasing)


What are the odds you’ll ever meet someone with a truly great mind, a genius of geniuses of humanity, a supernova in the sky of humanity, a bright shinning sun?

…minds like C. S. Lewis, John Adams, Shakespeare, Leonardo de Vinci, Aristotle, Dostoevsky, or King Solomon. Think of these huge towering figures, these undeniable greats of history. A mind that can play all the mentally creative notes like Itzhak Perlman plays violin. The sheer greatness of their talent makes us cry tears of joy at the beauty. And in a way induces more reverence for God’s creation: mankind. Your brothers and sister of humanity.
I wish we could hear more about these than those of infamous types, Stalin, Pol Pot, Mao Zedong, or Hitler.
(She went on. Again, I’m paraphrasing.)


The odds are very very slim you’ll ever meet such a mind in person or even know of one in this life. Just look at how incredibly rare the four leave clover is. But, you can know them. That is why the great books by the great people should be read and taught. You can get a glimpse of those lucid, agile, brilliant minds in their writing. And by some miracle you get the privilege to spoon a little of their prodigious disciplined thoughts into your mind. Nector of the gods so to speak.

I’ve read a lot of dwarfs. While there are books that come from the Hall of Famers I’ve never touched. But I stand like a dwarf  the shoulders of giants and like the giants see, I see, because they have left their words behind. Many of us don’t even know where our feet are. As I age my eyes drift over my library and ever more they are drawn to the wholesale philosophers, the lovers of wisdom, the greatest of minds. 99.99% of everything else – while amusing us for bit – is retailed for the masses. I may never be considered among the very wise, but from these minds I’ve learned it is better to be worthy of being known than to be known.

2 Comments on “Towering Genius

  1. Curiously, I’ve always felt that to become one of these giants the last thing you have to do is try to be one. In my case, I’d rather be a source of motivation for my peers, someone who can instill them with that urge to be creative or productive in their area of choice. After all, it was Mark Twain who said that truly great people are the ones who make you feel that you can also be great.

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