I know a woman who "feels" words. To her, some words are ugly to the point of discomfort. Others are beautiful. Not coincidentally, she is verbally gifted. It made me wonder if genius can be defined by the degree to which something intellectual can be felt as a physical experience.

For example, most people feel something when they listen to music. But I suspect gifted musicians feel it in an entirely different way than I do. I could never memorize all the notes in a song because for me it would be an exercise in rote memorization. For someone gifted in music, memorizing a song is easier because such a person would remember how each part felt. Feelings create memories more easily than intellectual experiences. The stronger the feeling, the easier the memory.

Most of the people reading this blog are gifted in one way or another. Think about the field in which you excel the most, then ask yourself if you operate by feel more in that area than in others.

I was thinking of this the other day when I heard a new song by Kanye West, called Love Lockdown. I have never been a big fan of his music. I thought he was a bit of a manufactured celebrity. That changed when I heard this song, after I confirmed that he wrote it. The performance itself is brilliant in about five different ways. I especially like the heartbeat-beat. Perhaps he had help with the music and performance parts of the song. But the words: Genius.

Now I realize I am going to get lots of howls about this post. If you don't like this genre of music, fine. But try to suspend that for a minute to listen to the song then look at the lyrics, in that order. (Links below.)

The genius of the lyrics is how they feel as words themselves, second as a flow, and third for their meaning. In my opinion, this is the work of genius.





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Nov 7, 2008
I've always advocated that "illogical" things are actually quite logical, but require some lateral thinking to understand how they fit into the traditionally logical system. Emotions are (in my opinion) very logical and useful, and ideas like Data (from ST:TNG) are a load of bull.

Scott, since you (and I) believe there's no free will, there obviously has to be something that prompts and motivates us to do things... without emotions, there is no motivation. People (or anything that lives) only do anything because of feelings and emotions - hunger, fear, desire, etc. Even the most basic things... self-preservation may be an instinct, but instincts communicate with us by feelings and emotions, not by rational thought.

That being said, the "genius feeling" you talk about fits in nicely with that line of thought. If you like something, you'll interact with it. The more you interact with it, the more your body and brain adapts to do well at it. If you do well at something, chances are you feel good about what you did. This creates a "warm and fuzzies cycle" of improvement and positive reinforcement. In other words, if you like something enough, and interact with it enough, you sort of redesign yourself to become a genius at it. It may even be true that what people call "aptitude" is really just an instinctive positive association with something... which explains why some goofballs out there seem to be "geniuses" at stupid things, like drinking themselves into a ditch or crime or managing a bank.
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Nov 7, 2008
The youtube link now points to a link that says "This video is no longer available" ... quite probably because the copyright owner asked youtube to take it down.

Scott: a while ago you had some blog entries on how you thought it was wrong for people to copy your comic strips (I agree with you about that) ... but now here you are promoting somebody else's copyright infringement.
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Nov 7, 2008

Yes, the first time I heard this song I got distinctly good feeling about it -- a sort of tickled and amped up heart-brain excitement. I get the same feeling from listening to Santana's 'Smooth', from looking at a Jackson Pollock or a Van Gogh painting, and from reading Dickens and Mark Twain. I never ever get bored with them.

I don't think that this makes me an artistic genius. I don't have the innate talent that Picasso did. And I'm hardly special since billions of people enjoy the same works that I do, but probably in a different way.
Nov 7, 2008
"Genius can be defined by the degree to which something intellectual can be felt as a physical experience"

This post reminded me of a book I have called Gedanken Physics":

It teaches you to solve physics problem by visualizing them geometrically.
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Nov 7, 2008
Genius? Sorry, Scott but I don't believe any song rises to that description and certainly not one that does not feature a screaming electric guitar :) My guess is that the lyrics simply hit a chord as it were in your own personal life/philosophy.
Nov 7, 2008
I could not relate to that music in any way at all. Too bad scott, I think I am missing something good here :(
Nov 7, 2008
Your friend sounds like she has a case of synethesia (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Synesthesia) . While it is something that gives you a greater capacity for certain talents, it is distinctive enough a phenomena that I don't think it could be called a defining mark of genius. Being a genius requires the convergance of many different intellectual abilities of which memory is probably only one of them if even a necessary one.
There are people who are able to memeroize arbitrarily large amounts of information that we like to call geniuses, and while capable of impressive feats (such as the guy who learned to speak Icelandic in a week) may not contribute any more to society than a couple minutes of entertatinment.
In my opinion people able to take ideas and concepts and use them in original and useful ways are more deserving of being called a genius though if they have great memories to draw more experiences from it becomes that much more pronunced.
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Nov 7, 2008
There's an interesting book called "The Man Who Tasted Shapes."

MIT press calls it a "medical detective adventure." It's about a guy who has a condition called Synesthesia and the investigation into what causes it.

Synesthesia causes your senses to get crossed. In his case he could taste something and get a distinct tactile feeling in his hands.

It all started when someone overheard him at a dinner party fretting over the chicken he was about to serve his guests. "There aren't enough points on the chicken!" He said.

Oh, and as for this comment: [Most of the people reading this blog are gifted in one way or another. ]

Gifted? We prefer the word "Special."
Nov 7, 2008
two words: The Beatles - end of discussion...

on a totally different front they used to say the late Dale Earnhart could "see" the air on the hood of his car/off the bodies of his competitors'. he explained he couldn't "see" it per se but just somehow intuitively knew where it should be doing what and how to use it to his advantage. this is a guy who dropped out of high school so I kind of doubt he ever had any formal education in aerodynamics, differential equations or finite element modeling and likely thought Bernoulli's was a pizza chain...
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Nov 7, 2008
When I am doing something particularly well, I have a very strong sense of clarity and rightness. It all feels so right and easy. However, I have had this feeling and been utterly wrong and then have a huge problem with cognitive dissonance. Just because I feel brilliant, does not make me so, but I diffinitely agree that I really feel the things I am good at. Another word would be intuitive.
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Nov 7, 2008

You are definitely on to something here. There is a man in England who is an autistic savant. He has memorized pi to 22,000 digits and can perform high level computations in his head. his name is Daniel Tammet. The link below is to his appearance on Letterman. In it he describes how he "sees" numbers.

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