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Scenius: The Communal Genius

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"If you believe in the lone genius myth, creativity is an antisocial act, performed by only a few great figures—mostly dead men with names like Mozart, Einstein, or Picasso. The rest of us are left to stand around and gawk in awe at their achievements." — Austin Kleon

We create better together.

Even a genius is cultivated in the fertile soil of other bright minds. Look closely at the lives of the greats. From Picasso's group of artists and intellectuals at the El Quatre Gats cafe to the modern climes of Silicon Valley, a scene of rebels and provocateurs fans the flames of creativity.

Within this scene...

  • Conventions are bucked and broken.
  • Ideas are paraded about from conception.
  • One discovery is quickly built upon another.
  • Each innovation adds to the gravity of the overall scene.

Musician Brian Eno refers to this concentration of talent as a scenius. It is "the intelligence and the intuition of a whole cultural scene... the communal form of the concept of the genius." Reduced to a phrase, it is an "ecology of talent."

A scenius is like the turbulent cloud of dust within which a cluster of stars is born. The activity of the scene generates a swirling current of ideas. Knots of ideas coalesce and produce enough mass to generate gravitational attraction. These protostars of creativity shine bright as talented minds flock to them.

The Technium describes a scenius as...

  • "A place that is open, but not too open.
  • A buffer that is tolerant of outlaws.
  • And some flash of excitement to kick off the virtuous circle."

And then cautions us against tinkering with it...

  • "When it pops up, don’t crush it.
  • When it starts rolling, don’t formalize it.
  • When it sparks, fan it."

Does true genius exist among us? Yes! But these truths are equally profound:

  • One need not be a genius to add value and innovate.
  • A genius needs the minds of others to fully blossom.
  • A genius need not be a single person.

Regardless of individual genetics, we need the ideas, insights and perspectives of others to stoke creativity. We feed off of them, much the same way fire feeds on the material it consumes...

"When the fire is strong, it soon appropriates to itself the matter which is heaped on it, and consumes it, and rises higher by means of this very material." — Marcus Aurelius

A scenius forms organically around the right combination of creative minds under the right conditions at the right time. It is serendipitous and cannot be forced.

So how do you create a scenius of your own within which to thrive as a creator?

  1. Ignore the concept entirely.
  2. Find a group of creators you vibe with... one at a time.
  3. Create and share freely among them.

Even if the next Silicon Valley fails to materialize, you will benefit from the minds of others. Some may shine brighter than others, but everyone will shine.

Food for Thought

Are you creating alone?

Have you ever "vibed" with another person on a topic of interest?

Did you notice how ideas flew like sparks faster than you could record them?

One Small Step

Find one person online who shares a creative interest:

  1. Comment on their work.
  2. DM them with what you value in their work.
  3. Reference them in your own creations when inspired by their work.
  4. Strike up regular Zoom calls where you stoke each other's flames of creativity.
  5. Repeat.

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