Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Academia And Genius

If we're going to go strictly by academic records, then Einstein's records before 1905 don't show all that much. Academic records may be a good general indicator of talent, and there have always been non-academics who ridicule academics (or academics who ridicule whole other academic disciplines, cough cough New Atheists Postmodernists cough cough) and are, you know -- wrong; but on the other hand there are a few people whose relationship to academia is unconventional. Like Einstein going so quickly from the patent office to a professorship. Like William Gaddis and Cormac McCarthy, neither of whom ever graduated from college.

Like me. I'm staggeringly brilliant -- let's face it -- and I graduated from college with high honors, and I managed to do that in the very same university where McCarthy failed to graduate at all, but I did it when I was nearly 28, and I had never graduated from high school (got a GED instead) and my graduate school record, all in all, would have to be called a disaster, spanning 3 universities in 3 years and resulting in no graduate degrees.

And all of that led me to be well-inclined, at first, to people who sneered at academics, until I got to know those people and realized that they were mostly just idiots. On the one hand there's Gaddis and McCarthy and RB Morris and Pynchon and Schopenhauer and me -- just 6 of us -- and on the other hand there's a bazillion non-academic morons who are basically all just a bunch of damn Fredo Corleones who insist that they're smart! not like everybody says, like -- stupid! They're smart and they want some damn respect!

Well, they're not smart. (Although, unfortunately, they do get some respect sometimes. On shows about ancient aliens and the Grail in Amurrka, for example.) The thing about Gaddis and McCarthy and RB and Pynchon and and Schopenhauer and me is that there ain't too many of us. And we don't generally get called stupid. Unless somebody loses their patience with us and yells at us that we're "the smartest and the dumbest person I've ever met!" the way Mandy Patinkin screamed that at Carrie Mathison and threw up his hands and pulled his hair. We get called that, but not because we're stupid, but because we're brilliant and unconventional, and someone loses his or her temper because we're not using our genius the way they'd expected. Just like Einstein, working at the patent office and completing his doctorate, and the papers that would make him world-famous, at the same time. That's unconventional. The same way that it was very unconventional that Saul Bellow spent decades in the 2nd half of the 20th century as a professor at the University of Chicago, and the only doctorates he ever got in his life were honorary.

Did Bellow teach English? No, of course not! He taught a course on Rousseau. McCarthy hangs with academics -- but mostly scientists.

We draw outside the lines, some of us, and sometimes that means that we don't do the academic thing conventionally, if at all. There's only a very few like us, but there are many geniuses in academia, in the places designed specifically for them, just where you'd expect geniuses to be. Conversely, among the genius full professors there are a few fully-professorial morons, like Hegel and Robert Price, but they too are anomalies. We anomalous geniuses don't go around proclaiming that we're going to "rip the cover off of what academia doesn't want you to know!" because, generally speaking, the academics want you to know the real deal. Generally speaking. Theologians, maybe not always so much.

No comments:

Post a Comment