24. Genius is rarely appreciated by contemporaries ------------------------ Previous - Next - Contents

Erik Satie, the eccentric French impressionist composer (1866-1925) wrote underneath his self portrait (shown below)

Je suis venue au monde très jeune, dans un temp très vieux."
"I have come into the world very young, in a time very old."

Erik Satie, self portrait This is how, over the ages, many brilliant artists, scientists, innovators who were at the forefront of breathtaking new directions in their field must have felt : born at the wrong time.
Take Vincent van Gogh, who barely sold a painting during his life, or Galileo, who was placed under house arrest by the Catholic Church, because he claimed that the earth rotated around the sun, not the other way around.
Or take even Alfred Wegener, who observed that the earth's continents could be nicely joined together like a jigsaw puzzle, and formulated the theory of Continental Drift, 150 years before it was finally accepted by geologists during the second half of the previous (20th) Century.

Vincent van Gogh, self portrait The fact of the matter is that the opinions, understanding and awareness of the general public, the authorities, the church are always well, at times hundreds of years, behind the most intelligent and creative front runners. The sad paradox is that, although these geniuses personally may feel they were born at the wrong time, from the point of view of humanity as a whole they were born at the right time, because they moved humanity forward, pushed it onto a new level of awareness.

Perhaps on a more gradual scale we all have our place in time, some ahead, others somewhat behind the awareness of humanity in general at a certain time. If this is so, how do you, dear reader, feel about yourself. Are you born at the right time ?

I personally am in two minds about it. Born in 1937 I have lived through an era of unprecedented change and progress of the modern world, and I would not have missed that for anything. At the other hand however I sometimes feel strongly that I do not belong to this present time, so full of greed, selfishness and incredible hatred. True, there is some good as well, but generally I feel that in terms of human attitudes I would prefer to be born 500 or even 1,000 years ahead from now, in the hope that by that time a less materialistic, more generous and well meaning humanity has evolved.
From the general humanity's point of view of course I am born at the right time, to help in whatever small way I can to set an example of generosity, goodwill and greater awareness.
Will you too, dear reader, put your shoulder behind the wheel and join me in making that effort ?

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Copyright © 2010 Michael Furstner