Thursday, June 11, 2009

To Be or Not To Be...a Genius in One's Own Field

I can't help but compare Wright to Einstein. Both were once-a-generation geniuses. Both physically and ideological reshaped the world. And both had terribly disastrous personal lives. Now I have to ask myself if I even remotely had the same Spark within me, would I really want to achieve this magnitude of genius in my chosen field?

Smithsonian Magazine's June 2009 issue ran an article about Frank Lloyd Wright and his personal life. I'd never thought to look into the man himself, only his architecture. After reading the article, the comparison to Einstein seems even more poignant. Einstein too had severe marital and parental problems that were a source of scandal and infamy. And as a devoted and loyal husband and father, I cannot help but find my opinion of both men to be diminished as a result.

This is not to say I consider myself better than either man, or any man for that matter. Rather, I do not understand how Wright could have, in his own words "hated the sound of the word papa," or how Einstein could have been so cruelly unfaithful to the wife he once declared “a creature who is my equal and who is strong and independent as I am.”

Everything I do, I do for the love of my wife and child. Certainly the field of Architecture itself is my choice. But the drive to not only excel, but to be the best in my class, and eventually the pinnacle of my profession, is derived from the presence of my wife and child. I want to provide them the best life I can give them, and cannot possibly fathom sacrificing my relationship with either of them for the sake of my career. Family should not be an impediment to one's success, but a pillar of it.

I look at Frank Lloyd Wright's buildings in a new light now. Before, I saw them with the same sort of reverence and awe that one might view any work that so eloquently combines science and art. Now that he is no longer deified in my mind, I look at Falling Water, wonder if I could do better, and no longer think myself arrogant for wondering. These were not gods. These were not avatars of divine purity and perfection. They were flawed, mortal, and deeply conflicted individuals who managed to achieve great things in spite of, not because of, their inner-torments.

How much more than they could I achieve with the love and support of my family? To what greater heights could I soar? What depth of impact could my words, actions, and designs have upon the world when I approach them from a happier point of view? Anyone reading now might scoff, and perhaps even rightly so, for one to suggest they could ever reach the level of Einstein or Wright, but I say why else even enter a field? Should we hobble ourselves and claim we could never achieve even what those who came before us did, then humanity would never progressed. There would never be a Guinness Book of World Records, nor an attempt to break them. It is in our nature to meet and exceed the accomplishments of those who came before. It is in my nature to try my best.

I just have to hope that, should I be blessed, gifted, hardworking, or whatever "enough" it takes to achieve the heights of the giants, that I don't let it change who I am. Was it fame that destroyed the family life for Wright? Was it success that lured Einstein away from his wife? What is it that causes a "Genius" in one's field to completely and totally lose touch with where they came from? Was there something wrong there to begin with? Did the character flaws exist before their elevated status, or because of it? The only thing that makes me fear one day being the best is how utterly it has destroyed those who have been there before. Currently, I am a nobody, but if I ever become a somebody...or as they like to call them now, a Starchitect, I sincerely hope that I never end up like this guy...

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