Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Being Brilliant

The British use the word "brilliant" the way we use the word "cool" or "awesome," but I'm going to use it the American way in this post. We have these lectures every morning, after our first class, by various university professors, and today I listened in awe for an hour to an absolutely brilliant woman discuss the agony and the ecstacy, categorized together as the sublime, as they are represented in tragedy and comedy, ancient to modern. Every sentence that came out of her mouth felt like it could have been a graduate thesis, and yet they all linked together seemlessly and . . . brilliantly. The best part was that she's this petite red-head who looked about 25 and was 4 or 5 months pregnant, very quiet and unassuming.

Being here has made me realize how much I don't know, how much there is to know, how much I'd like to be able to give a brilliant lecture, how much the academic is a world that both fascinates and repels me. I love to think about and understand things, to see connections, to be well-read on a variety of topics, and yet, pursuing that in and of itself feels tiresome to me. As much as I'd like to be able to enthrall an audience with the things I say, to be able to come up with an idea that no one's ever considered before, doing that simply for the sake of doing it feels somehow empty. And so I wonder, what does one really gain by being brilliant? In what ways is brilliance worth pursuing, and in what ways is it ultimately disastisfying? Something I'm pondering here on the other side of the pond :)


Patrick said...

Hi Abby, it's good to see another fall to the mighty powers of the blogosphere. It's funny that you mention brilliant being a common word over there. My friends and I joked about the commentators for soccer games and how everything was brilliant...brilliant pass, brilliant shot, brilliant goal!

Good questions too. This quote about knowledge seems a bit similar to pursuing brilliance, right? It's from Bernard of Clairvaux:

There are many who seek knowledge for the sake of knowledge; that is curiosity. There are others who desire to know in order that they may be known; that is vanity. Others seek knowledge in order to sell it; that is dishonorable. But there are some who seek knowledge in order to edify others; that is love.

Heidi Lawrence said...

Hey Abby--I like this post, not only because it talks about my new personal hero Sarah Houghton-Walker, but also in light of last night's conversation and today's sermon at Holy Trinity...knowledge, knowing, brilliance, ignorance, love and rejection, preoccupation with spots on one's lawn...something about being outside of your comfort zone and feeling hypersensitive about yourself and others' perceptions of you starts to bring those bigger questions, and their minute implications even on escalators, to the surface.

Ug...deep thoughts must wait until later...there's a big scary bee in my room and I need to go hide. Cheers and congrats on the blog!

steph-a-ninnie said...

Very Ecclesiastes-esque! And yes, brilliant indeed! *_*