[Image: Old Man with Turban, Rembrandt]
He has made everything beautiful in its time.
DISCLAIMER: Please hang with me in this thing... I am no expert on anything I am writing about. I would love to hear your thoughts on the subject.
What is this thing called genius? Why is it that we know it when when we encounter it but we are not really sure why?
After all, it's not exactly the same things as technical excellence though that seems to be an adjunct, perhaps a corollary though not always a pre-requisite.
Musing on the idea it occurred to me that "genius" is the ability to explore and demonstrate the marvellous complexity inherent in a simple subject yet without losing the original integrity. What does all that gobbledy-gook mean? Perhaps its best to illustrate rather than try to nail it down in words.
Rembrandt is a certified genius. But in most of his paintings what we see is an intentional simplicity of subject. Here, it's a painting of a man wearing a turban. But immediately, if we do anything more than give it a passing glance, we see that it is far more than that. There is a "story" in the man's expression. He is solemn, intent upon whatever is occupying his mind, intelligence streams forth in his expression and there is more than a hint of sensitivity. In some manner Rembrandt has captured a glimpse of his soul.
But there is more. The detail in the man's face and turban draw us into the painting. The fibers glisten in the light. The experience of years is captured in the creases that line his face. And all this detail is literally highlighted by the offset light. A broad light on his face would have masked the detail and flattened his expression. The light illuminates the simple subject and what we discover is the wonderful complexity that is there... contained in the subject but "discovered" and made known to us through the "genius" of the artist.
Another illustration: Mozart... another certified genius.
Take a moment... about 4 minutes to be exact... put on a good set of head phones if you have them... close your eyes and listen to one of my favorite works, the second movement of his Piano Concerto #21, Elvira Madigan,;Download 05 Mozart_ Piano Concerto #21 In C, (The first movement is even more illustrative of the point but it is quite long.)
Notice immediately the "simplicity" of the main theme (it's only about 10 or 12 notes strung together) and the simplicity of the secondary bass theme (only three notes) that perfectly interweaves with the main melody. Notice when the piano comes on, that it, in a very disciplined manner, reminds us first of the main theme. But throughout this wonderful work those two themes are simply expanded, elevated up the scale, broken into sub-sets and varied a bit, the progression reversed, then moved into a minor key to give contrast and build tension, and then, as the piece closes, the original subject is again displayed and brought to a satisfying close that leaves the heart at peace and the sense that God is in His heaven and all is ultimately right with the world.
That's genius. In both the painting and the music, a simple subject is explored and the complexity that is inherent in it is displayed and commented upon and brought to the attention of all us mere mortals who benefit from their gift. Gifted musicians can play and render Mozart's work beautifully... but that is not the genius. Expert technicians can copy Rembrandt's painting... but that is not the genius. The "genius" was the insight, the penetration, the recognition of what was there, in combination, and the exploration of it without destroying the original. The man in the turban is always there... the "subject" of Mozart's exposition is always "there".
You know... perhaps that is where the highest expression of the image of God in man is to be recognized. God has made "all things beautiful in its time." What does that mean other than that the fullness of all His works, the complex interweaving that underlies them, comes together into a magnificent higher simplicity that we call "beauty." Man is man but what a wondrous creature he is. And when we bring all the other complex creatures together and the full extent of the heavens and the earth and we realize that it is all, ultimately, simply the "word" of God... His breathed purpose, then we fall down and worship at the sheer perfection of it.
Man, in demonstrating genius, is thinking God's thoughts after Him. He is exploring the simple and revealing and exploiting its complexity and at last, falling down in worship of Him who made it this way and gave us the ability to follow His steps.
Not all of us are Rembrandt as far as the art of portraiture goes. There was only one Mozart. But, and I am convinced of this, we all possess genius. It's not a measure of "smartness"... it's not identical with an elevated IQ, whatever that is. Genius is finding one thing... pondering it... exploring it... and discovering its inherent beauty and unity. Bearing witness is using our genius, as it is distributed to each of us, to show forth the wisdom, power and glory of God.
What a joy it is to know that all things are beautiful... in its time. Now that is true genius.