Tens of millions of youngsters attempt to enroll, study in, and graduate from an Academy (or University) annually. And later on, as mature and more or less distinguished professionals, some attempt to join, teach, and excel in an Academy (or University) as distinguished faculty.
It can be an academy of music and arts. Or an academic society open only to the best and finest from the science or humanities world. Or a military or police academy seeking excellence in service of the country. Or it can be a driving school called ‘the academy’… It doesn’t matter because eventually, it leads to one goal: our further personal development, impressively broad or highly narrow and specialized.
Imagine if you were the first to establish such an academy in Europe when Europe was the epicenter of global knowledge. Then your name would probably be Plato. And you would have an impressive resume: Student of Socrates, mentor of Aristotle, a brilliant philosophical mind laying the ground for as diverse disciplines as mathematics, metaphysics, and politics, a mega influencer of future proponents of a couple of major religions and philosophies that followed, and an epic professional wrestler with big shoulders and chest. (Plato meant ‘wide’).
As if all this was not enough, he was credited with about 70 steam mechanism inventions, foreseeing the very mechanics of the industrial revolution. As we are often inclined to describe such individuals, the guy was a bit ‘ahead of his time.’
2,400 years, actually…
How can this be possible? Is it genius? A plethora of Talent? And are these innate and further developed, or external gifts from God, for example?
I will attempt to argue in the most Platonic manner possible that Everyone is capable of such discoveries by using two (oversimplified and generalized) of his theories.
First, you discover nothing. Everything is already in you, and you validate it through knowledge.
And second, there are external forms beyond the physical world that (can) shape our world. Justice, for example. Regardless if it is well served and very present in your society or not, it exists as a notion, as a practice (perhaps not always properly practiced), affecting your life.
After combining the two, any logical mind has to wonder: what if we discover preexisting truths but not from within ourselves only? What if they existed before their inventor existed? The magnitude of such a thought opens up possibilities any intelligent individual cannot afford to ignore.
In other words, what is it out there (in your profession, for example) that nobody has thought of yet? Although it is hanging there, right next to you? As a pianist and composer, I cannot help but admit that all great works of music (and art in general) often seem so natural and inevitable in their organic development. Despite their often monstrous complexity, one wonders whether the composer created them by himself or perhaps they were captured by his astute inner ear, listening to an external world… Same with inventions, scientific discoveries in the micro or macro world, notions, and spirituality.
It may be that great minds do not produce anything, after all. Perhaps they see and capture in one form or another Universal Greatness and manage to communicate it without damaging it. If this theory appeals to you, then you must view such rare individuals as explorers And vessels, akin to spiritual archeologists performing intellectual excavations. And certainly not as forward-thinking manufacturers, which is the trend of our times. To find, to preserve, to present…
It may be that great minds have historically been way ahead of their time because nobody was looking in the direction they were so aptly listening.