Genius has also been compared to the child and the woman. Regarding genius and the child, we must draw a distinction between childish and childlike. Genius is not childish, but childlike in its attitude towards experience. The child's attitude is that of a disinterested interest, in contrast with that of the interested interest of the adult. The child is avid for experience, throwing itself into it with complete abandon and spontaneity. The adult is calculating, scheming, selfish, experience having no value as such, but only in what it can yield in satisfaction of some consciously felt need or desire. The child-likeness of genius lies precisely in this impractical outlook on its surroundings, an attitude so vividly described by Schopenhauer.
Thus genius is the faculty of continuing in the state of pure perception, of losing oneself in perception, and of enlisting in this service the knowledge which originally existed only for the service of the will; that is to say, genius is the power of leaving one's own interests, wishes, and aims entirely out of sight, . . . and with sufficient consciousness, to enable one to reproduce by deliberate art what has thus been apprehended, and "to fix in lasting thoughts the wavering images that float before the mind." It is as if, when genius appears in an individual, a far larger measure of the power of knowledge falls to his lot than is necessary for the service of an individual will; and this superfluity of knowledge, being free, now becomes subject purified from will, a clear mirror of the inner nature of the world.
This explains the activity, amounting even to disquietude, of men of genius, for the present can seldom satisfy them, because it does not fill their consciousness. This gives them that restless aspiration, that unceasing desire for new things, and for the contemplation of lofty things, and also that longing that is hardly ever satisfied, for men of similar nature and of like stature, to whom they might communicate themselves; whilst the common mortal, entirely filled and satisfied by the common present, ends in it, and finding everywhere his like, enjoys that peculiar satisfaction in daily life that is denied to genius.
The common mortal, that manufacture of Nature which she produces by the thousand every day, is, as we have said, not capable, at least not continuously so, of observation that in every sense is wholly disinterested, as sensuous contemplation, strictly so-called is. He can turn his attention to things only so far as they have some relation to his will, however indirect it may be. Since in this respect, which never demands anything but the knowledge of relations, the abstract conception of the thing is sufficient, and for the most part even better adapted for use; the ordinary man does not linger long over the mere perception, does not fix his attention long on one object, but in all that is presented to him hastily seeks merely the concept under which it is to be brought, as the lazy man seeks a chair, and then it interests him no further. This is why he is so soon done with every thing, with works of art, objects of natural beauty, and indeed everywhere with the truly significant contemplation of all the scenes of life. He does not linger; only seeks to know his own way.
Thus he makes topographical notes in the widest sense; over the consideration of life itself as such he wastes no time. The man of genius, on the other hand, whose excessive power of knowledge frees it at times from the service of will, dwells on the consideration of life itself, strives to comprehend the Idea of each thing, not its relations to other things; and in doing this he often forgets to consider his own path in life, and therefore for the most part pursues it awkwardly enough. While to the ordinary man his faculty of knowledge is a lamp to light his path, to the man of genius it is the sun which reveals the world. This great diversity in their way of looking at life soon becomes visible in the outward appearance both of the man of genius and of the ordinary mortal.
The man in whom genius lives and works is easily distinguished by his glance, which is both keen and steady, and bears the stamp of perception, of contemplation. This is easily seen from the likenesses of the few men of genius whom Nature has produced here and there among countless millions. On the other hand, in the case of an ordinary man, the true object of his contemplation, what he is prying into, can be easily seen from his glance, if indeed it is not quite stupid and vacant, as is generally the case. Therefore the expression of genius in a face consists in this, that in it a decided predominance of knowledge over will is visible, and consequently there also shows itself in it a knowledge that is entirely devoid of relation to will, i. e., pure knowing. On the contrary, in ordinary countenances there is a predominant expression of will; and we see that knowledge comes into activity only under the impulse of will, and thus is directed merely by motives.
Really every child is to a certain extent a genius, and the genius is to a certain extent a child. The relationship of the two shows itself primarily in the naïveté and sublime simplicity which is characteristic of true genius; and beside this it appears in several traits, so that a certain childishness certainly belongs to the character of the genius. In Riemer's "Mittheilungen uber Goethe" (vol. 1., p. 184) it is related that Herder and others found fault with Goethe, saying he was always a big child. Certainly they were right in what they said, but they were not right in finding fault with it. It has also been said of Mozart that all his life he remained a child ( Nissen Biography of Mozart, pp. 2 and 529). Schlichtegroll "Nekrology" (for 1719, vol. ii., p. 109) says of him: "In his art he early became a man, but in all other relations he always remained a child."
Every genius is even for this reason a big child; he looks out into the world as into something strange, a play, and therefore with purely objective interest. Accordingly he has just as little as the child that dull gravity of ordinary men, who, since they are capable only of subjective interests, always see in things mere motives for their actions. Whoever does not to a certain extent remain all his life a big child, but becomes a grave, sober, thoroughly composed, and reasonable man, may be a very useful and capable citizen of this world; but never a genius. In fact, the genius is so because that predominance of the sensible system and of intellectual activity which is natural to childhood maintains itself in him in an abnormal manner through his whole life, thus here becomes perennial.
A trace of this certainly shows itself in many ordinary men up to the period of their youth; therefore, for example, in many students a purely intellectual tendency and an eccentricity suggestive of genius is unmistakable. But nature returns to her track; they assume the chrysalis form and reappear at the age of manhood, as incarnate Philistines, at whom we are startled when we meet them again in later years. Upon all this that has been expounded here depends Goethe's beautiful remark: "Children do not perform what they promise; young people very seldom; and if they do keep their word, the world does not keep its word with them." ( Wahlverwandtschaften, Pt. i., ch. 10)--the world which afterwards bestows the crowns which it holds aloft for merit on those who are the tools of its low aims or know how to deceive it. In accordance with what has been said, as there is a mere beauty of youth, which almost every one at some time possesses (beauté du diable), so there is a mere intellectuality of youth, a certain mental nature disposed and adapted for apprehending, understanding, and learning, which every one has in childhood, and some have still in youth, but which is afterwards lost, just like that beauty. Only in the case of a very few, the chosen, the one, like the other, lasts through the whole life; so that even in old age a trace of it still remains visible; these are the truly beautiful and the men of true genius.
The notion that the mind of artistic creative genius resembles that of the woman arises from a misconception as to the real nature of the female mentality. Popular opinion notwithstanding, it is not the female who is idealistically, imaginatively inclined, but the male. It is the man who has idealized the woman, not the woman the man. There are few great love poems written by women in glorification of the man, while the literature of the world is replete with idealizations of woman by man. What the male has done--and this is an indication of his imaginative nature--is to turn the essentially factual, realistic-minded woman into his ideal, has made her into his art work, a rôle which she gladly accepts and enacts with all the skill and astuteness characteristic of the practical nature.
No woman idealizes a man. She loves him, when she does not merely use him, for what he actually is. He loves her for what he makes out of her. And she encourages him in his idealization of her because it serves her realistic purpose to have control over his roving, romantic, unquiet, restless disposition. The male grows weary of one female in propinquity unless she shows unusual skill in deliberately developing a many-sided personality or is naturally endowed with it, while the female chooses, when she can, and when she is wise, the not too brilliant male as a guarantee of steadiness and constancy. It is the male who strains at the leash of marriage, hungry for further adventures with the new and untried, which in turn loses their glamour and fascination soon after they have been attained.
Historically the female is a neglible factor in the imaginative realm. She has almost no place in the sciences, arts, philosophies, and religions, in a word, in creative endeavor. And this fact can not be altogether ascribed to limitation of opportunity, for genius is not a matter of occasion but of endowment. Genius is not an accident. It does not wait for opportunities, advantages, and favors. It fights its way against all odds or obstructions. But even if creative attainment were principally dependent on opportunity, the predominance of the male in the arts is an indication of his imaginative status as compared with the female. A woman of outstanding accomplishment in any one of the arts is a most rare phenomenon, in spite of the fact that by far more women than men take up the study of music, painting, or acting in youth, although the support of these arts, as is evidenced from the composition of audiences at theaters, concerts, and art galleries, is maintained principally by the supposed-to-be weaker sex. The woman often shows marked talent in these arts, but rarely, if ever, genius.
That it is the male rather than the female who is the unpractical is shown even among animals, savages, and the state of those occupations of civilized peoples on which depends the sustenance of life. Among savages the woman supports the family while the male plays at hunting or war, or sits in solemn council regarding affairs of state. With civilized peoples, industry, politics, and war are games or adventures, and the male objects to the female's entrance into these mainly on the ground that she would spoil his games by turning them into the drab business of national housekeeping. Had the management of the practical affairs of the world been left to geniuses history would relate a tale of great dreams and utter disasters. It is the female mentality of the so-called common man, with his nose to the grindstone of physical existence, that is keeping the world safe and sane, with an occasional spur from genius to keep him from resting too long on the oars of existence. The average man is the real male counterpart of the true, normal female, and it is in the degree to which he deviates from this norm in the direction of creativity that he approximates the true male.