There are rare beings who posses an abnormal abundance of emotions. Under certain conditions, for instance, in isolation, and with the right upbringing, they become more in tuned with reality. That is, isolation makes them vulnerable, and this vulnerability brings forth creation. So it is with the great genius of analyzation, who become wizards in philosophy and mathematics, even engineering; however, those with creative hearts, their emotions flare and this is the cause of intuitive genius. I want to say, those who feel deep, think deep. Now, why is this Romantic? Because at the core of Romanticism is an active, organizing, creative element that is perpetually forward thrusting; at the core of the human soul is just that same element, our soul pivots on an active, creative, organizing element that perpetually changes. Analytic genius dissects; intuitive genius connects. Both borrow from one another to a large degree, some philosophies are fascinatingly creative, and some poetry is technical. But there are rare beings who are consummate geniuses who are capable of virtually anything, where nothing is wasted, that use poetic devices, and philosophical concepts and mend them together to create the greatest works the imagination is capable of, such as with Homer, Plato, Dante, Shakespeare, and Goethe. They create the rules, and lesser minds bend to them as they should. I once heard, its probably apocryphal, that laws were created for when the wise man had passed away. Well, there’s much wisdom in the great poets, and yes, I would say Plato is a poet amongst many other things.
The reason why the Romantics lionized Shakespeare, is because at his core was changeability. Shakespeare learned much from the greats, especially Ovid’s Metamorphosis. There is an old tale of a Shakespeare scholar who would begin the semester by jumping into his classroom the first day by way of the window. I’m pretty sure the students thought he had lost his marbles. Then after the bell went off, the professor would point to the window and asked what is was. They all would say a window. He corrected them, “No, I used it as a door, now it is a door.” This is how he’d prepare them for Shakespeare, to let them all know what the imagination was capable of. That all bets are off now, best to prepare the mind to overcome functional fixedness and let the imagination run wild in any direction the wind is blowing. What’s the next stop? Dante’s Purgatorio is enlightening, because the first terrace of Mt. Purgatorio is that of pride, and it’s in shedding our pride and paying homage to the greats, to better perceptual apparatuses than mere mortals are likely to possess.
Romanticism is a broadside against the Enlightenment of measurement and dissection, of observation and hypothesis. There’s more to reality than what can be dissected and pointed at, or theorized in mathematical equations. I’ll use Leibniz for an illustration. Leibniz once had his readers imagine a brain, and now imagine it the size of a building, and walk into it. What would one see? They’d see mostly fat, water, and protein; which can be translated into neurons, dendrites, and the synapse between them; which can be translated into basic chemistry, until we get into physics, ad infinitum. What’s missing? You’ll never see an idea, an aesthetic experience, qualia, intentionality. Romanticism says there’s more to reality than the nuts and bolts of the scientific, and philosophical mind can theorize in a laboratory or even an armchair.
Rousseau in his Solitary Reveries book, felt intense isolation, even public humiliation, but found solace in nature, nature as a rejuvenating source of energy and beauty, even awe. In one of his outings he confesses how this source of play of the imagination, the free play of ideas, he feels would soon vanish if he became an author or professor. Play to the Romantics wasn’t goofing off, but instead having an authentic commitment to an activity that let you express yourself to the max degree with all of one’s faculties united to do the impossible. To be able to do this, and to do it well, is to enter into the creative cult of Genius.
Afterword: I’m not implying I’m a genius, I just really dig Romanticism. I’m a fool. But I hope the person who asked me about this topic today enjoys it.