“Great discoveries are but reflections on facts common to all. People have passed that way myriads of times and seen nothing; and one day the man of genius notices the links between what we do not know and what is every minute before our eyes. What is knowledge but the slow and gradual cure of blindness” – A.G. Sertillanges, The Intellectual Life
The accumulation of knowledge doesn’t make one an intellectual, though it might make one better at trivia. It’s the connection of the jigsaw pieces into a complete puzzle for all to see that makes the genius. Something to aspire to, I think, and something valued. The person who can draw together disparate bits of information and turn it into insight will have no problem working in a world with an increasingly short attention span.
Becoming that sort of person takes time and a good filter. What do you say no to? The very distractions everyone else is obsessing over. Cultural, technological, social distractions designed to pull our attention from more productive uses to linger a moment just over here. Harmlessly fun. Distractingly fun. Blindingly fun.
The people that see the obvious we’ve all been missing tend to look at the world through a different lens. Perspective matters, and we need those who can make sense of it all more than ever. Look around the world at the noise and you’ll see some folks are too eager to drink the Koolaid and less likely to ask “why?”
There are exciting things happening at the genius bar. Rockets bringing telescopes to deep space. Huge advancements, accelerated by mRNA sequencing, in the treatment of disease. Robotics and Artificial Intelligence that have the potential to clear mechanical and intellectual hurdles humans have been unable or unwilling to clear. What will it all mean? And who’s paying enough attention to care?
The way to get a stool at the genius bar is to think more deeply, seek new perspectives, read material that challenges you, visit places out of your comfort zone, and then weigh these new inputs against the stuff previously stored in your personal data center. Find the connections, find the contradictions, and make sense of it all over time. Here lies the cure for blindness. And maybe the hope for humanity.