TED : Ideas worth spreading

Review: Your elusive creative genius

Speaker: Elizabeth Gilbert
TED2009
Date: February 2009
Location: Location, ST

Description from TED website:
Elizabeth Gilbert muses on the impossible things we expect from artists and geniuses — and shares the radical idea that, instead of the rare person “being” a genius, all of us “have” a genius. It’s a funny, personal and surprisingly moving talk.

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My Review / Notes / Thoughts

There is a lot to think about in this talk. Fearing that the next “project” won’t measure up to your last success is the plight of the modern creative mind. It causes doubt, anxiety, and many have spiraled into uncontrollable depression over this fear.

Gilbert presents a new … or perhaps I should say “old” … way of thinking about the creative “genius” that can help a person detach and hopefully keep such fear at bay. In her research, she went back to the ancient Greeks and Romans to see how they viewed creativity and inspiration. Interestingly enough, they didn’t view the person as the one with the creativity … instead they viewed it as external to the person. Therefore, if something created was “great” that person could not take all of the credit, and if that created thing “flopped” … again, it wasn’t all their fault.

She describes this as a “psychological construct” to help protect a person from their own work. I think we all need to have boundaries and barriers to protect us from each other and even more from ourselves (after all, we are typically our own worst critic).

I think what stood out to me the most was towards the end of her talk, where she said:

“But maybe if you just believed that they [the most extraordinary aspects of your being] were on loan to you from some unimaginable source for some exquisite portion of your life to be passed along when you’re finished, with somebody else. And, you know, if we think about it this way, it starts to change everything.”

If we look back to Matthew 25:14-30 where Jesus talked about the parable of the talents, a correlation can be seen. Our “extraordinary aspects” are our talents … and they’ve been given to us. They aren’t originally ours, but they are given to us for a time … and if we don’t use them, they will be taken from us.

To me, it appears that Gilbert’s talk really does seem to align with what Jesus was saying in Matthew. What do you think?

Questions to ponder:

  • How would you incorporate this into classroom discussion? Personally, I can see an application for theology, psychology, sociology, as well as the arts.
  • What types of questions would you ask your students when thinking about what Gilbert has to say?

Want to know more about Gilbert? Check out her books!
Note: Links are affiliate links and I may receive a small commission if you make any purchases.

Gilbert’s Books:


Until next time … live long life-learner!

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