What is your gift? What can you do that no other human being can do just like you?”
“There is nothing special about me!” said the character, Jack, in the film, The Fisher King. “I control my own destiny.”
Life is mysterious. Yet I believe that we all have a certain genius. The word genius comes from the root of gignere which was to ‘beget.’ We bring forth or give birth to something, according to this definition of genius.
In the late 16th century, the word genius had evolved to mean natural ability. By the mid 17th century, genius came to mean ‘exceptional natural ability.”
The evolution of the word genius seems to reflect our cultural perception that we are not all gifted as individuals. There are special people who are different than average humans, like you and me.
It is my experience that everyone has unique gifts. School can be confusing, because of its emphasis on language and mathematical ability. Often we see a person’s I.Q. (Intelligence Quotient) as a number which defines whether she or he has genius or not. Further, our I.Q. is too often seen as fixed and never changing.
Alfred Binet originally developed the intelligence test to identify which French students would have difficulty in school to assist them. It is ironic that we now use the concept of IQ to label and shame others. IQ scores have a long history of gender and cultural bias.
Fortunately, Howard Gardner developed the ideas of Multiple Intelligence. He asserted that there are nine different types of intelligence:
1. language (Verbal-Linguistic)
2. mathematics (and logic)
3. science (Naturalist)
4. artistic (Visual-Spatial)
5. athletic (Bodily/Kinesthetic)
7. interpersonal (social)
8. intrapersonal (self-awareness)
9. existential (meaning of life)
Your IQ score will not reveal your creativity, your common sense, or your social skills. The singer, Lady Gaga has high Musical Intelligence. The tennis player, Serena Williams has great physical abilities. The teacher, Thich Nhat Hahn has high intrapersonal Intelligence.
Yet one does not need to be famous to have genius. I think each of us has unique gifts with which we are born. It is our opportunity and privilege to develop these talents. The saddest thing is when families and schools fail to recognize the uniqueness of each child, leaving one to feel insignificant, powerless, or unlovable.
If we work hard at developing our natural gifts, then we are able to experience the joy of expressing our gifts in sophisticated ways. Richard Bolles writes, “where your great passion meets the great need of the world, that is where your work lies.”
May each of us have the courage to take the heroic journey of individuation. May we work and struggle to develop the natural gifts with which we are born.
Charles Baudelaire writes that “genius is childhood recaptured.” A healthy relationship with our inner child may assist us in developing our unique talents in love and work. Please watch this video by Judith Peterson,M.A., on the Inner Child: