Random Thought Thursday: The Birth of Genius
My husband and I were watching PBS for a bit tonight and there was a documentary on about architect Frank Gehry. He is known as a risk taker, a genius in his field, and has among his most notable designs the Walt Disney Concert Hall in LA, the Guggenheim Museum Bilbao in Spain and the Vitra Design Museum in Germany. (His work is very modern and I was amazed in that many of his buildings look as if they shouldn't be able to stand; the design is so crazy. If you want to see some wonderful architecture, Google him one night. It's fascinating stuff.)
Anyway, in this documentary he mentions that he had a grandmother who used to put out paper, toothpicks, glue, scissors, cottonballs, wood scraps - basic odds and ends - on a table and build models and sculptures with him. Decades later Gehry became a world renowned architect. Hmmm . . .
And then there are musicians. How many times have you heard on VH-1's Behind the Music that Dave or Phil remember getting their first drum set at age four or picking up big brother's guitar at age five and never putting it back down.
What about the painter who doesn't remember his first set of paints, but has pictures of creating his first piece when he was three - a "mural" on the kitchen floor drawn with his mother's favorite lipstick.
What about the biologist who remembers getting a microscope for Christmas or the astronomer who was surprised when she got a telescope for her 10th birthday.
You get the idea. And it all got me thinking. Where does genius come from? Are people born with it? Does it have to be nurtured? If so, does the nurturing of the genius have to be focused on or pertaining to that particular child's "special" talent? How do we know if our children possess such a talent? Or does it develop based upon the child's environment and the objects that are introduced into the child's life?
Or is it a lot of luck? I mean, how many children have been given musical instruments, have been forced to take piano lessons or join the church choir and upon leaving for college never touched an instrument again? What about all of those kids who loved to fingerpaint and build sculptures only to become geneticists or doctors or paleontologists? Where does genius come from?
I'm not really sure . . . That's why I'm asking you.
The only thing I know for sure is that the role of a parent seems to to be that of a coach - not an overbearing, win obsessed monster who makes you run laps for failure - that is, someone who provides the opportunities for success, but the actual success or failure is up to the individual child. I guess we can't know what our children will excel in and what he/she likes today may be entirely different from the profession or passion he/she picks up 20, 30 or even 40 years down the line.
So I guess we just have to keep buying the fingerpaints, the hockey equipment, the drums, the scraps for making collages and the biggest box of Crayola crayons we can find. And remember to take lots of pictures and keep a detailed journal - you never know when Behind the Music might show up.