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Archive for November, 2011

Long ago I read a newspaper article which beautifully praised the life and works of a famous artist.  I have forgotten his name but that is of no consequence, for similar articles appear from time to time describing such clever people.  What struck the writer of the article most strongly was the ability of the artist to visualise ideal scenes – the sort that idealise Nature to a seemingly impossible degree.  Thus it was that he could paint a scene (real or fictional) not as it would normally appear, but as it seemingly ought to be if only the faults and vagaries of Nature were removed or rectified.  But perhaps that, in itself, was not the true genius of the artist ; rather, his genius showed itself in what he described as the perfect clarity of his visions, and in his wonderful ability remember and to paint exactly what he saw.

I expect there are many artists who share this gift in some measure ; and many more people who have the vision but lack the artistic skill to reproduce it.

And I expect there are just as many who have the visions (and maybe the artistic skill) but of a kind that are not at all beautiful – visions of perfect awfulness.  And it may well be that just about everyone has had such visions (both beautiful and horrid) in dreams.  Perhaps the great artists manage to enter into a dreamlike state whilst remaining fully awake.  Those with experience of hypnosis will have a good idea of what I mean.

One also hears occasionally of people who experience vivid impressions of scents and tastes, and even bodily feelings such as tensions and pains, though these are not so easily conveyed as art.

So four of our senses may be directly and vividly stimulated without any involvement of the organs of sense.  And generally this is accounted a good thing, a mark of genius.

When we turn to the fifth sense we find, first, something similar.  For example, it has been said that Beethoven could hear an entire symphony before he even set pen to paper or toyed with his piano keys to confirm his hearing.  Perhaps his profound deafness sharpened his imagination, but I don’t think that wholly accounts for his ability here, for Mozart also had the gift or genius.

I suspect also that great poets may vividly hear their lines before they begin to write ; as if their muse (or genius) is instructing them on what to put on the paper ; so as to ensure that the sounds, the rhythm, the rhyme, the metaphor and the meaning are all quite perfect for the context.  Again all this is generally marked as a gift of great price.

But then, the general opinion changes markedly in a certain respect.  For if the person who hears the voice in his head is not an acknowledged literary master, then his voices are taken to be signs, not of genius, but of madness.

There only so much that might be written about many things in the world ; but when it comes to people, the possibilities for discussion are endless.

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