"It is strange to be known so universally and yet to be so lonely" —Einstein
I. The Gift & the Curse of Genius
It was the 4th of July and the night was still a toddler. Family and friends gathered around.
My mother, for some reason, thought it wise to blurt: “Hey y’all, a month ago my baby signed to the literary agency that represents Eckhart Tolle!”
I heaved a sigh.
I sensed a need for exiting stage left before that drunk uncle in the family cornered me, and then slurred: “Now nephew, just as I ain’t forget about ya when you needed dem school clothes, you make sure you don’t forget about ya old uncle.”
But before that scenario could play out, my teenage cousin flashed in view.
“Hey, Genius . . .” P.J. blurted. “Bro, you write good as hell! So let me guess: you tryna be the greatest genius ever, huh?”
Without blinking I wrapped an arm around his shoulder. “Young man, who’s the genius responsible for discovering the law of gravity?”
“That’s easy,” he said, “Isaac Newton!”
I nodded in agreement.
“And so, Newton’s genius gave the world the gift of everything from calculus to the laws of motion. In turn, he was repaid with the curse of dying lonely and childless. After all, Newton died a virgin.”
I then asked him, “So tell me, young fella, which inventor’s genius towers above all others in history?”
He paused for a bit. “Ahhh, whose the guy Jay Electronica rapped about? Tesla something. … Forgot his first—”
I nodded in agreement.
“And so, Nikola Tesla’s genius gave the world the gift of everything from the radio to alternating current. In turn, he was repaid with the curse of dying a lonely, childless old man in a cold New York City hotel room!
Pic: Wikimedia Commons
He gulped. Ahhh, but like a frozen dinner mere seconds after being placed in the microwave, I was just getting warmed up.
“So tell me, young fella," I said, "of all the musicians in history: which artist had a genius so extreme that they labeled him the King of Popular Music?”
“That’s easy,” he chuckled, “Michael Jackson . . . duh!”
“And so, from the moment Jackson could stand upright till his death, his genius blessed the world with the gift of song and dance. In turn, Jackson was repaid with the curse of an unshakable feeling of loneliness. After all, it was Jackson who once confessed:”
If you came to see the truth, the purity, it's here inside a lonely heart.
He shook his head.
“Young fella,” I continued, “tell me the name of the Savior whose genius single-handedly gave rise to the world’s most popular religion?”
“That’s easy, Jesus Christ!”
“Excellent. And so, the Nazarene’s genius gave the world the gift of salvation. In turn, he was repaid with the curse of feeling lonely and homeless. Or as he put it:”
Foxes have dens and birds have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head.
“Ever heard of Mahatma Gandhi?” I asked.
“Of course,” he shot back. “That’s the dude Martin Luther King learned non-violent protest from!”
“You’re smarter than you look, young fella,” I joked before continuing to spoon-feed him the food for thought.
“And so, Gandhiji’s genius gave India the gift of independence. In turn, he was repaid with the curse of feeling exhausted and lonely from a life devoted to peaceful protest. After all, Gandhiji was affectionately known as 'The Lonely Pilgrim of Peace.' ”
In figuring my cousin would be clueless regarding the lady whose genius revolutionized the notion of “Princess,” I called my aunt in the room.
“Auntie,” I said, “Please, if you don’t mind: when you think of a princess, who’s the first name that comes to mind?”
Without blinking she answered: “Oh, that’s easy, nephew! Princess Di. Boy was she a sight to see!”
As for sights, I again set mine on my cousin.
“Indeed, Princess Di’s genius gave the world the gift of royalty with a saintly touch. In turn, she was repaid with the curse of utter loneliness to the point of full-blown depression! Shall I continue, young fella?”
He winced. "Nah, forget I ever mentioned it!"
II. In Closing
Pic: Wikimedia Commons
"Intelligent people tend to have fewer friends than the average person," Tesla said. "The smarter you are, the more selective you become."
What Tesla seemed to be groping with is this: because the basis of friendship is standing on common ground, the genius or extremely intelligent person is usually left lonely.
Most people would find it unfathomable to relate to someone armed with a mind like Einstein's, After all, from the seat of his pants, Einstein literally calculated and predicted how 93,000,000 miles away the Sun's gravity would bend light during the solar eclipse of 1919.
Ponder, if you will, how challenging it would be to relate to someone that smart. Yet, as noted, given that friends and family are the very lifeblood of a balanced life, it's apparent the greater the gift of intelligence, the greater the curse of loneliness.
Perhaps Einstein put it best:
It is strange to be known so universally and yet to be so lonely.