Sunday, June 05, 2005

The other genius

While reading James Gleick's Genius, a book about Richard Feynman, a passage in the prologue caught my attention. In this, Mark Kac, the mathematician, beautifully describes why Feynman, a brilliant man in many ways, left behind few students.

"There are two kinds of geniuses, the "ordinary" and the "magicians." An ordinary genius is a fellow that you and I would be just as good as, if we were only many times better. There is no mystery as to how his mind works. Once we understand what they have done, we feel certain that we, too, could have done it. It is different with the magicians. They are, to use mathematical jargon, in the orthogonal complement of where we are and the working of their mind is for all intents and purposes incomprehensible. Even after we understand what they have done, the process by which they have done it is completely dark. They seldom, if ever, have students because they cannot be emulated and it must be terribly frustrating for a brilliant young mind to cope with the mysterious ways in which the magician's mind works." [Italics mine.]

As a cricket writer, I find myself wondering if this paragraph could be applied to Sachin Tendulkar. During his time as captain there were suggestions he lost his cool with teammates if they failed to complete a task he considered simple. Could it be that to Tendulkar's magical genius, Rahul Dravid is an ordinary genius, for his excellence at orthodoxy is obvious and easily understood? Both men play the game in their mind, but one was born with it, while the other worked towards it. This could also be another advantage if Dravid becomes captain. He could coherently help players understand their talents better.

Postscript: There are others more qualified to speak about minds, genius, and psychology, but this passage, accurate or not, struck a chord with me. I thought I'd share it with you.

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