This afternoon Dr. Denise Cummings, Dr. Julian Chambliss and I had lunch with the poet Billy Collins and the philosopher Slavoj Zizek at the Winter Park Institute. The conversation was fast and furious and ranged from the role and function of the poet and philosopher, to the origin of language and music and from politics in Cuba to the Gulags in Russia. Overall it was a very enjoyable and stimulating conversation. Thanks to Dr. Gail Sinclair for arranging this for us.
At one point, Slavoj brought up the idea of “genius.” And then he asked Billy: “What kind of genius are you?” Are you like Bach who was a genius, no doubt, but nevertheless diligently worked at perfecting his gift from 9-5 everyday? Or are you like Mozart who simply showed up with no work and, viola…. Or finally are you like Beethoven whose genius alighted from the result of a fundamental internal struggle.
Billy’s response was, (and I’m paraphrasing)… “I enjoy writing because it flows out of me and gives me deep satisfaction.” We concluded, Billy’s “genius” must be like Mozart’s then. Whereas Slavoj’s genius is like the origin of language: it is a direct result of total failures that give birth to insights that simply cannot appear ad hoc, but only emerges out of the appearances of the world precisely by getting it wrong. Thus, we must conclude with the most vulgar form of homological analysis.
It was a good time!