Wednesday, November 05, 2008

St Mike Nesmith on genius and madness

"If genius is the ability to see analogy;
certainly madness is the ability to see analogy where none exists."

A great quote, uttered in passing, but nails it.

You might laugh when you recognize who said that, in this video clip (oo:49ff),

but anyone who is familiar with Mike Nesmith (beyond The Monkees) knows he too is an eccentric genius, and master of analogy.
Not only did his mom invent Liquid Paper
(that phrase itself incarnates oxymoron/paradox/analogy):

“One of the places (my mother and I) both connected was in our appreciation of the spiritual nature of the artistic and innovative experience, and how to bring that into practical, everyday use. She was very interested in taking this idea that she had pieced together from her work as a commercial artist and secretary and making it available to a lot of different people. She was always combing and rinsing her thinking to make sure that she was developing the idea according to a higher spiritual sense of it.”
-Mike Nesmith

..but did you know about Nesmith's
Council on Ideas, a "gathering of intellectuals from different fields who are asked to brainstorm solutions to world problems"?).

I am sure he realized he was paraphrasing Aristotle in the quote:

“The greatest thing by far is to be master of is also a sign of genius, since a good metaphor implies an intuitive perception of the similarity in dissimilars.”
(Poetics, 1459 a 5-8, "The Basic Works of Aristotle")

If Jesus "never opened his mouth once without speaking an analogy-metaphor-parable," (Matt 13:34-35)..

then surely the essence of prophetic genius (and "apostolic genius") is to do the same.

Our primary job as communicators is to find, exploit, and communicate connections between two apparently unrelated things; modelling the great connectedness of all things in the Freakonomic Kingdom.

It's the New Physics, as St Mike Roe sings.
It's holy synesthesia.
It's Keltic Ken's turf (his puns and wordplays make God's day).
It's an art that both Eugene Peterson and Bono handle well
(I guess as they are both poets at heart, so they can do no other);
maybe that is why the two admire each other:

“Prophets are characteristically masters of metaphor. Metaphor is the witness of language to the interconnectedness of all things visible and invisible….When prophets use metaphor, we get involved with God whether we want to or not, sometimes whether we know it or not…. If we are lucky, a prophet, one of the descendants of Hosea, or Jonah, or Habakkuk, shows up and with the simple expedient of a metaphor, said or sung, drags us outside into the open air when all the stuff we are studying is alive and moving and colliding with us. For many these days, it is U2 that shows up.”
-Eugene Peterson , Preface to "Get Up Off Your Knees : Preaching the U2 Catalog"

So to follow the second thesis of Nesmith's logic,
I think of well-meaning believers who see signs of God everywhere, and make connections everywhere....and fail to see that such can sometimes may be
too much caffeine (ironically, one of the benefits of that drug is that it kickstarts the brain into recoognizing analogy) ,
or a bit of temporary madness or zeal...

and/or the real thing!
The catch is:
genius and madness are often a fine line apart.

Just a different drum

P.S. Sometimes it is helpful (sometimes mad) to define ourselves (or God) by what we (he) are NOT; it's the underside of analogy....see Mike's second song here:

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