There are few things in the universe more beautiful and remarkable than the act of creation. We see it in nebulae as they collapse into new stars. We see it in the birth of a new child, watching it grow from the size of a pea to a live, breathing human with fingers and toes and the capacity to feel and experience.
But there is a special brand of creation that is perhaps the most beautiful and remarkable of all.
We see it in the creation of a new technology like the wheel or the semiconductor. We see it when the spark of a new song or poem pops in our minds and slowly comes to life on the page. We see it in the birth of human concepts and ideals like “liberty,” “justice,” and “democracy.” Something now exists which never existed before, which perhaps had never before even been imagined. And now it is real. If anything might be called magic, this is it.
This type of creation, of breathing something entirely new into existence, of humanity’s nature continuously emerging and transcending itself, is what I call “genius.” It is the fire that fuels humanity, driving it to ever greater heights and possibilities.
Genius is not compiling and regurgitating more information and knowledge than others, like a walking encyclopedia or Mensa member, as some would have it. It is not making a new piece of toast, something which has been done countless times before us.
Coming from the Latin genui meaning to “to bring into being,” genius is when we consciously and intentionally birth something entirely new into being. It is having the vision and courage to step into a realm that no one else has ever traveled, opening up an entirely new path in the arc of the universe.
Individuals can be geniuses. Albert Einstein, Marie Curie, or Mahatma Ghandi all offered something unique and beautiful to humanity that altered our trajectory forever. But genius can also lie in, and perhaps usually lies in, groups of people. The Greeks formed democracy for the first time. The Egyptians created massive pyramids. Even before that, bands of humans the world over separately learned to cultivate plants and eventually invented agriculture.
Genius is any moment of such creation, whether consistently occurring over one’s lifetime or focused in one moment of inspiration, whether created by one human or millions of them, whether recognizable to billions around the world or hidden to all but you in the loneliness of your basement. Genius is simply the process of creating something utterly new and unique.
Cultivating fire was perhaps humanity’s first and most enduring act of genius. But it led the way to countless others. Every generation, every year, every day, we create something that has never existed. Every minute we conceive of something that had never been conceived. The core trait of humanity is that we create. We know of no other beings in the universe with this ability. This is what distinguishes us. We are geniuses. We create and create and create, continuously transcending our previous limitations and growing and integrating new aspects of ourselves.