The Inhabitation of Jesus by Genius Trait
31 July 2016

by Dr. Leo Pascua

Harold Bloom is a literary critic possessing astounding intellectual credentials, which include Sterling Professor Of Humanities (Yale), Berg Professor Of English (NYU), and Charles Elliot Norton Professor of Poetry (Harvard). He is author of more than 25 books, a MacArthur Prize Fellow, and a recipient of the both the Gold Medal for Criticism (American Academy of Arts and Letters) and the International Prize of Catalonia. Suffice it to say that he is a respected superior in his area of expertise.

In this book, Genius, A Mosaic of One Hundred Exemplary Creative Minds (Warner Books, 2002), he comments upon the literary accomplishments of individuals such as Shakespeare, Goethe and de Nerval from the standpoint of inhabitation by genius trait, as opposed to being geniuses en toto per se. That is, he advances the notion that within a person can a genius trait which compels continuous thought and action recognized, occasionally in retrospect, as highly significant and indeed virtuosic in nature. Per Bloom's description, such habitation is a random occurrence, without regard to a person's fame, fortune, health (mental or physical), level of intelligence, personal ambition, genealogy, or gender.

As I read the book one summer, I considered the life of Jesus vis a vis genius trait, from the standpoint of a non-theologian such as myself: did Jesus accomplish anything highly significant as the result of virtuosity compelled by inhabitation by genius trait? If yes, what was the nature of the genius trait? What action(s) did they compel that provide evidence? Finally, could a genius trait that inhabited Jesus be voluntarily emulated? Can we, as humans, perform whatever act(s) were compelled by a genius trait that might have inhabited Jesus, or would such an endeavor be futile?

Were the actions of Jesus highly significant? Look around you. His words and actions are contemplated and studied, around the world, at the highest levels of inquiry. The relevance of his life is studied across temporal, generational and cultural lines, that is, by both young and old of all cultures and it doesn't look like interest in the life Jesus is waning. Jesus continues to be a powerful source of artistic inspiration, argument and debate. To this day, entire intellectual institutions continue to form, based upon his second person teachings (the biblical canon does not include a "Gospel According to Jesus").

How then can a person possibly emulate the actions of Jesus, in the modern world? Engineer a clinically verifiable Immaculate Conception and virgin birth? Become adept at performing miracles at will? Would it be sufficient to form a cadre of disciples (twelve seems to be the suggested number)? Should we focus our efforts to seek and disrupt any licensed moneymakers openly doing business in a certified house of worship? How about attempting a clinically verifiable death and resurrection? I suspect that clinicians would strongly discourage trying this.

So perhaps we can consider people who appeared to surely be inhabited by genius trait, albeit dissimilar to that which might have inhabited Jesus, and work forward from there. Wolfgang A. Mozart was an astounding musician and composer whose unparalleled musical ability was noted at childhood and increased throughout the duration of his life. Robin Williams was a comedian and actor, a master of original, spontaneous high level cerebral humor. Finally, Napoleon Bonaparte was a military leader who was adept at political and military strategy. From what I can gather, Jesus was not inhabited by musical, comical, or political genius trait. I do not recall any musical compositions with Jesus as the acknowledged composer. Scripture is not fraught with examples of hilarious statements by Jesus meant to induce laughter. Politically, Jesus appeared to be at odds against, rather than aligned with, the parties in power.

With regard to Jesus of Nazareth, what was his social identity and possible virtuosic skill that comprised the basis of a persona (and actions) that would be memorialized to the present day? Perhaps we can now ponder people who appeared to be inhabited by genius trait similar to that which might have inhabited Jesus, and extrapolate from there. Like Jesus, the genius trait inhabiting Samuel Beckett (novelist, playwright, poet) compelled him to ascribe to an overarching perception of oneself as part of something unending, even in negation, that is, after death. T.S. Elliot espoused the notion of engaging fully in a comprehensive philosophy derived by oneself. Finally, Giacomo Leopardi (Italian poet) perceived every moment, even at the darkest times, as an opportunity for an epiphany. Jesus alluded to a plane of existence that transcended ones current life. He continued to enact his personal philosophies despite increasing unpopularity. He seemed to be in a constant state of self re-examination.

The theme of Jesus' possible genius trait begins to implies itself in word (a portion of the Lord's Prayer --- "And forgive us our trespasses, As we forgive them that trespass against us") as well as teaching (Mark 11:25-- "And when you stand praying, if you hold anything against anyone, forgive him, so that your Father in heaven may forgive you your sins"; Luke 6:37-38--- "Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven").

I would contend that Jesus' genius trait definitively displayed itself in a timeless moment of extreme virtuosity, the exact moment now signified by a familiar temporal event icon: the cross. During his moments of maximal physical and psychological duress, impending death, greatest fear and inner turmoil, Jesus' genius trait compelled him to seek clemency… but not for himself. His astounding act of virtuosity is forever preserved in The First of His Seven Last Words, found in Luke 23:34,

"Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do."

At that moment his genius trait enacted itself, in a virtuoso performance of the ability to forgive that would imprint itself forever on the human psyche for generations to come. His choice to use his remaining breaths to plea for clemency transcended all that happened up to that moment. It implies a simultaneous awareness of both the intentions of God and the consequences of the behavior of his captors to that point.

So perhaps it is possible for us to emulate the actions of Jesus' genius trait in the modern day. We could try to contemplate the human cost of everything, and by doing so, acknowledge the ever-present need for compassion and forgiveness. We could find within ourselves, and then enact, the capacity for unconditional forgiveness. Finally, we can perceive of forgiveness not seen as discrete "act(s)", but rather as the overall "theme" for ones remaining life.

So perhaps it is possible for us to emulate the actions of Jesus' genius trait in the modern day. We could try to contemplate the human cost of everything, and by doing so, acknowledge the ever-present need for compassion and forgiveness. We could find within ourselves, and then enact, the capacity for unconditional forgiveness. Finally, we can perceive of forgiveness not seen as discrete "act(s)", but rather as the overall "theme" for ones remaining life.

 

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