Geniuses Are Different From You and Me

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Here is a mythical quote-counterquote that made literary history:

F. Scott Fitzgerald -- "The rich are different from you and me."

Ernest Hemingway -- "Yes, they have more money."

It didn't exactly happen that way. In actuality, the comments were made in separate passages of short stories written by the two famous authors, but the legend of its being an actual conversation between the two remains.

The debate no doubt still goes on as to whether the "super-rich" fundamentally are different from average folks, but it seems more obvious that artistic geniuses certainly are.

One could look no further than Hemingway himself to see that. What a complicated (and often difficult) man he was. He cut quite a figure in small-town Piggott decades ago when he visited with his wife Pauline -- let's just say he was unconventional by Northeast Arkansas standards. And we are certain more than one Piggott resident observed that the Nobel-prize winning author was "different" from the locals.

When one observes true genius it's often hard to comprehend how one man, or woman, could accomplish so much in a single lifetime. Thomas Jefferson comes immediately to mind with his amazing achievements in government, literature, agriculture, inventing, education and on and on.

We had an opportunity recently to see the work of a true genius in architecture -- Frank Lloyd Wright. Hailed by most as the greatest architect in American history and perhaps the world's pre-eminent modern architect, Wright built Taliesin West at Scottsdale, Ariz., as his winter retreat and learning center. We visited the remarkable center earlier this year and saw first-hand his concept of "organic" architecture that creates harmony between indoor and outdoor spaces. The site is now the location for the Frank Lloyd Wright School of Architecture.

Any list of the world's greatest 100 modern buildings will feature Frank Lloyd Wright more than any other architect. As with other men of genius, he was more than an architect -- he was an accomplished painter, designer of unique furniture and fashion and an outstanding pianist.

And, as is often the case, his personal life was, shall we say, unique. He certainly was not the greatest husband or father, as outlined in several books written about him and his family life.

No doubt Wright could be a challenge for those around him, perhaps at least partially explained by this comment -- "You see, early in life I had to choose between honest arrogance and hypocritical humility. I chose honest arrogance, and have seen no occasion to change - even now."

The words of a true genius, called by Boston Globe architectural writer Robert Campbell "the greatest artist this country has ever produced."