The trip to Weimar was literally one of the ‘Aha’ moments in my life. This is how Weimar happened; a day before we actually had to leave, I spent the whole day reading Galileo for a class. With my head drowned in my books I wondered to myself if I would ever get to spend some time with myself. Often one is able to discover many things about oneself while travelling. After a whole day of classes I came back to my room, dreading more work for the weekend. Then I read an email offering a free ticket to Weimar with the group that was travelling the next day.
And so it happened. I took that ticket and in an hour I booked a room in a somewhat nice youth hostel in Weimar. Despite having found a bed right next to a woman who snored all night long and the fact that the sheets stank very badly, my Weimar trip is definitely one of my most memorable excursions.
It was in Weimar where I came to realize that one can find or refine one’s genius at any given point in their life. And love seems to play a very important role in finding one’s ‘genius’. This dawned upon me as we visited Goethe’s house and his collection. Goethe, who would now be labeled as a polymath and a very effective politician of his days, wrote extensively on the topic of genius and how one can acquire it as one goes through life. His educational philosophy largely focuses on approaching various and diverse ranges of knowledge and fields. Goethe himself was deeply interested in variety of languages and he even attempted to learn Arabic. His interest in science, anatomy and botany can be seen through his beautiful gardens. The range of his interests and depth only increased his ability to produce knowledge that still informs us about variety of human dilemmas, from politics to metaphysics.
This genius of Goethe was not simply a result of his educational pursuits, but in addition, his love affairs affected the way he crafted his work and developed a certain position in society. Goethe’s most famous lover was Charlotte von Stein, a married woman and a mother of seven children. She came from an underprivileged background and they had a live-in relationship for twelve years. One could argue that Goethe’s unconventional behavior was seen badly, yet Goethe established the fact that when one loves someone, one has to completely disregard status, race, and ethnicity – rather, love is an unexplainable notion, and sometimes it just is. For Goethe, love had the power to reveal his true self to himself, Frau Von Stein reflected to Goethe, his deepest and darkest corners of his soul. In a poem addressed to Frau Stein, Goethe writes,
You knew every feature of my being,
Saw the purest tremor of each nerve,
With a single glance you could read me,
Hard as I am for mortal eye to pierce:
You brought calm to my heated blood,
Guiding my wild and wandering course,
And in your arms, an angel’s arms, I could
Rest as my ravaged heart was restored.
You bound your lover fast with magic ease,
And made many a day pass gloriously.
For many modern readers, this phenomenon probably would not strike as something which would be a proof for genius, but in my view, it really shows us the vastness of Goethe’s mind.
For myself, at ECLA perhaps, I live in a constant pursuit of finding my own ‘genius’. And somewhere in my soul, I am aware that it goes hand in hand with relationships one develops over the period of a lifetime.