Tuesday, May 24, 2016
An Outstanding Movie
Recently I saw the movie called "The Man Who Knew Infinity." The story (based on a true life experience) concerns an Indian (Srinivasan Ramanujan Iyengar) who comes from an extremely impoverished background but who is, for mysterious reasons, a highly gifted mathematician. At first he operates in total anonymity, for he lacks any kind of contacts or support from the academic community. He fills his notebooks with highly complex equations, so advanced that almost no one can understand them. Finally, he receives a scholarship from Cambridge University (in England) and goes there hoping to publish his extensive findings.
As one might expect, the senior faculty scorn his work and he is often challenged and denigrated as a fraud.
Finally, proof of his genius is overwhelming and he is recognized as the brilliant scholar that he is.
But the fact is, he is no scholar, though his work is indeed brilliant. When he is pressed to say how he discovers his formulae, he says he prays to his goddess, and the answers simply come. In other words, he works by divine inspiration and shortcuts the laborious task of following the standard procedure: carefully moving point by point to a final conclusion. He ultimately has been recognized as one of the most important mathematicians of all time.
This, of course, is how other geniuses have worked, with Mozart being a prime example. He said that sometimes her "received" entire symphonies in his head all at once.
And of course, there is Rumi, who danced in trance and in that state spoke his poems aloud (fortunately, his students copied them as he spoke). It is said that Shakespeare "never blotted a single line."
Two nights ago, I happened on a T. V. program called "Little Big Shots" which is hosted by Steve Harvey. This show focuses on highly gifted children from various fields (music, karate, and others). One was a kid who appeared to be about 5 years old performing highly advanced math solutions very much the way Ramanujan did. I think he was doing it by “intuition” though he did not discuss this. He spoke in his baby voice in his answers to extremely advanced and complex questions of math. When he was asked to read aloud a series of figures stretching across the board, he did so, beginning with some word I did not even recognize (well beyond trillions and zillions). How does he know all this? He must be one of the "new children" coming into the world with knowledge and gifts well beyond their years. (You can see a sample of his abilities at work at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JAMxbHQyPdk for April 16, 2016––or else just google "little big shots baby math genius").
I think that many of us get small tastes of this ability. When I write poems, these come through very quickly and I do little revision or change. I write at the typewriter and listen to the "inner voice" which speaks quite rapidly. If I try to insert major changes into the work, these often make the poem worse. It seems that the poems wish to remain intact just as they flow from source.
But we should add, that usually major inspirations only come to those who have a strong background in the field already. When inexperienced writers (or would be artists in any field) try to compose solely by "inspiration," their work often falls short, unless, of course, they possess the "gift," and are seemingly blessed by the unknown source.