My sister just sent me a link to a TED talk. TED talks are fascinating. This one describes itself thus:
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.
I think it’s a beautiful idea, one I am inclined to value highly. I have been a teacher most of my working life – and soon learned to value highly the contribution of students. Not only in terms of what I asked them to do but – also, and more importantly – in terms of what they learned to ask me to do.
Genius is not the preserve of a man or woman our society determines as being so. And even if it is, it is only because our society is incapable of perceiving the genius that all of us contain. Even as we like to focus from a distance on the visibly astonishing, we miss out on the beauty that we exhibit every single day of our lives. We are clever souls, we human beings. The virtual democratisation of content we are witnessing this last decade is not primarily a cause of information ills but, rather, a massive release of pent-up generations of humanity unable for so long to visibly express their genius.
And now I have a confession to make. I haven’t watched the TED talk my sister has sent me as yet. And I probably won’t. I really do hope, however, that she doesn’t stop sending them to me. Today’s post would not have got written if it hadn’t been for her thoughtful including of me in a footnote to a Facebook post. Although I very rarely watch videos at all, their synopses rapidly read do often spark unfinished and engaging business.
To be honest, I think there’s a reason. I think I’m a natural reader, not a watcher. What’s more, I think those who watch are – more often than not (though clearly an exception in the case of my book-loving sister) – natural watchers, not readers. Which leads me to draw the following conclusion: the old-age battle (or, at least, the sixty-year-old battle) waged between literature and television has subtly restarted since the arrival of the web. Following on from the middle of the 20th century, our early 21st century online humanity has reasserted a division which should please us enormously. For between the geniuses of industrialised art and the geniuses of individualised art, we stumble across everything we should admire. That some of us should continue to find pleasure and intellectual involvement in this century’s equivalent of tablets and scrolls of yore and that others of us should continue to find pleasure and intellectual involvement in this century’s equivalent of more oral and theatrical tradition simply underlines the power and strength of them both.
All those centuries ago, we got it right first time.
The instincts to register through writing and speech the thoughts, occurrences and imaginations of a wonderful species were just as accurate and apposite then as they still are these days – continuing as they do to strive and fight their way above the flood waters of passing and irrelevant technologies and discourses.
A reader then, are you? Or a watcher? Or a marvellous – highly literate – combination of the two?