So I read this quote by Albert Einstein. It reminded me of an earlier favorite of his, “Creative spirits are always viciously attacked by mediocre minds.” This old one has always been my favorite quote till this new one read last week. “Everyone is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing it is stupid.”
It makes me wonder about how many of us are judged as the genius we are meant to be for demonstrating that which we do best, and how many of us are the misunderstood fish trying to climb the tree.
This past weekend I walked and shot. I suspect that these days the stroll, shoot and write could be seen as my genius. Though my greatest pleasure is observing genius in others. When I’m with little children, I don’t even want to be noticed or seen observing them. I just want to watch and listen to their unaware brilliance.
Authentic without layers of denial, rejection or inability, they might just be bent over by an easel as they paint. Our children are the purest form of genius, for as we know, to them, all fish can of course climb trees if that is what they want them to.
At a public market, in front of a lone musician, a child dances with complete freedom in the street. Mom and Dad are watching with pride and protection as the child spins and smiles. I sit on a curb to watch her genius at her level. I raise my camera and she stops to look at me.
I wonder how much genius can come out once we know we are being observed. Perhaps, like the famous quantum theory, observation affects the reality. Maybe the fish that attempts to climb the tree is indeed genius till it notices it is being watched.
A few blocks away, a security guard patrols the roof on top of an art museum. Completely unaware that he is being observed, he becomes a work of art.
In the park beneath the strolling guard, a baby sleeps in her carriage. Unaware that she is being admired, she dreams of flying like birds, swimming like fish and playing with toys.
On the other end of the street are the most affluent of children playing with the most expensive of toys. They have profited from their genius and their reward is their ability to outwardly behave like children and be the fish that climb trees when ever they damn well please.
A long time ago while attending art school, a professor saw me struggling with a watercolor painting. He was the genius and I was the fish clearly climbing the tree very poorly. The teacher came over and took the brush out of my hand and began mixing paint boldly while he attacked my canvas as he spoke.
“… your scene has no drama, it’s flat and boring and shows no emotion. Put some storm in those clouds, bring the sun down to draw those long shadows, disturb the water and reveal the beauty that’s dying to come out.” Back then I did a few more water colors but was always the fish that couldn’t get off that tree if I tried.
At that time, I could only appear stupid, unaware of what I could not do. But yesterday as I walked among the wealth of genius owned by others, I turned and saw my past return as familiar. There was that actual dramatic storm brewing in the clouds, the sun really did hang low in the sky as it lit up the buildings against the dark sky. The water became disturbed and rippled with memory before me.
Because I was that stupid fish back then, I was able to recognize the genius in this moment and raised my weapon and fired. People will ask what camera I was using to capture such a scene giving credit to the genius of the tool used to freeze time.
But only you will know, had I not been that seemingly misplaced fish back then, I would not have been the well-timed fish now, able to finally climb that tree.
To all those out there who which to be recognized by others for your genius; exceed others’ expectations and do what they know you to be great at.
For those geniuses out there that are compelled to climb trees with your fins… care not how you are seen by others and remember your dreams; your stupidity born one day in your past, might return on another as genius while everyone is watching.