The Divine Spark

How do people come up with those brilliant ideas? Things which we take for granted, but others for generations did without. scissors, can openers, the ball-point pen. Ideas so simple it seems a wonder that people lived for so long without them. And yet, it makes you speculate what was different about Leonardo da Vinci (for example) that gave him the idea which lead to the invention of scissors?
Why are some people more creative than others?

Up until the 1960s, everyone competing in the high jump jumped the same way - they lurched over the bar face first. Then along came a man who revolutionised the sport. He was initially ridiculed for his bizarre method, but today every high jumper uses Dick Fosbury's style - the Fosbury Flop - such was its success. How did he come up with such an idea? Clearly he was prepared to take a risk and try something new, which others had either not tried, or found unhelpful.

When we consider these great inventions and ideas, what is often hidden from our view is the often vast number of failures which litter the pathway to the discovery. Thomas Edison, inventor of the electric light globe, built some 50,000 models before finding one which worked. An assistant, becoming depressed by this apparent lack of progress made comment to Edison, whose response is recorded as "We have not failed. We now know 50,000 ways that don't work!"

Michelangelo was quoted describing genius as "eternal patience". Remembered for his work on the Sistine Chapel, amongst many great works, he is not remembered for his kindergarten paintings, nor for his playdough creationsJ A great many failures litters the path to his genius. There is a persistence in learning which refined his skills and attitudes - something easily overlooked when observing the final product.

Ancient societies used to make gods out of such extraordinary people. They considered such achievement to be so unusual as to set these people apart. While we do not "officially" make gods out of such people today, we continue to set them apart in such a way as to separate them from the rest of us. Yet, God has placed his "divine spark" within each one of us. The difference may lie in such simple things as risk-taking, patience, and perseverance.

And then again, what is it that suggests that those who make such profound innovations are the only people of value?

June 25, 2000
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