Prince Rogers Nelson, known throughout the world simply as “Prince,” died this past week at his $10 million, 65,000 sq. ft. Paisley Park residence and production studio in Minnesota. Prince was 57 years old. He was the latest in a long list of iconic geniuses to die at a tragically young age.
Geniuses are peculiar by definition. It’s more obvious in the arts but not exclusively so. There are geniuses in business, technology, literature, science, even the art of war. They fascinate me. Their autobiographies and biographies have taught me most of what I know about the importance of leadership, creativity, courage, and perseverance.
I’ve always suspected a fine line is all that separates a genius from insanity. A recent issue of the Journal of Psychological Science has verified it. Through a series of tests, they demonstrated that extremely creative and accomplished people share the neuregulin1-gene with those who battle psychosis and depression. The journal contends their findings partly explain why geniuses like Prince, Michael Jackson, Elvis Presley, Hemingway, Vincent Van Gogh, Charlie Parker, Jimi Hendrix, Hank Williams Sr., Ray Charles and many others became the victims of their own excesses and self-destructive behavior. It’s not a new theory. Aristotle said, “No great mind has ever existed without a touch of madness.”
Reports say Prince was so consumed with work the week prior to his death, he lost track of time and had not slept for six days. It was intentional. The gifted artist had designed his residence with no windows on the first floor so that he, nor his staff, could tell the difference between night and day when working on a project.
Gifted people have trouble fitting in. John Lennon famously castigated his aunt and school teachers for not recognizing his genius early on. He wrote, “I was always different. Why didn’t anybody notice me? It was obvious to me. A couple of teachers would notice and encourage me to be something or other, to draw or to paint – to express myself. But most of the time they were trying to beat me into being a ****ing dentist or a teacher.”
In his autobiography Moonwalk, Michael Jackson experienced sensitivity to a force beyond himself. “Consciousness expresses itself through creation. This world we live in is the dance of the great Creator. Dancers come and go in the twinkling of an eye but the dance lives on. On many an occasions when I am dancing, I have felt touched by something sacred in those moments. I felt my spirit soar and become one with everything that exists.”
Geniuses are not always admired for their exceptionalism. You can’t challenge the status quo and expect conformists to reward you for rejecting their standards. Jonathan Swift understood that. “When a great genius appears in the world you may know him by this sign; that the dunces are all in a confederacy against him,” he lamented. Fulton Sheen put it more bluntly, “Jealousy is the tribute mediocrity pays to genius.”
Loneliness. Isolation. Misunderstanding. Rejection … are the consequences of being gifted in a world of normalcy. If that is true of mere mortals, how much more did Jesus suffer by virtue of His divine nature? I’m sure He felt it. His remarks about John the Baptizer and His own rejection have always caught my attention. “John the Baptist came neither eating bread nor drinking wine, and you say, ‘He has a demon.’ The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and you say, ‘Here is a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners.’ But wisdom is proved right by all her children.”
I’m certain Jesus expected the rejection He experienced at the hands of those He came to save. It had been foretold. Six hundred years before His birth, Isaiah prophesied, “He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him, nothing in his appearance that we should desire him. He was despised and rejected by mankind, a man of suffering, and familiar with pain. Like one from whom people hide their faces he was despised, and we held him in low esteem.” Being aware of the reason for His isolation made it no less painful.
The apostle John described the Lord’s unwelcomed status in His version of the Christmas story. “He was in the world, and though the world was made through Him, the world did not recognize Him. He came to that which was His own, but His own did not receive Him. Yet to all who did receive Him, to those who believed in His name, He gave the right to become children of God— children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God.”
I sincerely hope you accept Jesus as your Savior, love Him and let Him love you. I sincerely pray you value the sacrifice He made for your benefit. Geniuses are marked by passion for their work. No one was more passionate than Jesus. The prophet said it best, “Of the greatness of His reign and of His peace there will be no end… The zeal of the Lord Almighty will accomplish it.”
Jesus was only 33 years old when His passion for your salvation caused HIs death by crucifixion. Maybe Groucho Marx was right when he said, “All geniuses die young.” By the way, Groucho lived to be 87 years old.
Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable his judgments, and his paths beyond tracing out! “Who has known the mind of the Lord?
- Describe how it feels to be misunderstood?
- Now imagine how it felt for the 33 years of Jesus’ life to walk the earth without equal, and no one who understood His true nature.
- Why do you suppose theologians say the suffering of Jesus began at His conception, not in the Garden of Gethsemane?
When you observe the death or aberrant behavior of gifted people, are you inclined to:
A. Shake your head in disgust.
B. Feel empathy for their inability to function better in society.
C. Quietly envy their gifts.
D. Thank God for your own well-being.
Take the survey and leave a comment for the benefit of those who might learn from your insight.
If you were unable to attend services last weekend and would like to listen to the message, visit our homepage at stjstl.net and click on Media at the top right of the web page. Growing Deeper, a Bible study, written to accompany the message series is also available to download.
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Dear Savior Jesus; it has rarely occurred to me how difficult it must have been for you as a child or an adult living in a world that could not possibly understand your divine nature. Even now, I realize that as “high as the heavens are above the earth so much greater are Your thoughts than my thoughts.” I’m not inclined to ask for greater understanding for that would require a miraculous transformation of my very nature. I do ask for greater trust and greater appreciation of Your activity in my life and in the world. You are God and I am not. Thank You Lord for Your patience with me and Your willingness to suffer my misunderstanding. Amen.
You're never too old to come and play with us at Cave Quest Vacation Bible School. Okay, so play may mean volunteer, but we promise that you'll have fun, too!
Pastor Hower will be speaking on " A Christian Perspective on Islam" on Tuesday, May 3 at 7:00pm, in the Ministry Center, Room 250. Registration is available at stjstl.net/open-registrations or contact Dorothy at
Make the space to be at Come and Worship on Wednesday, May 4 at 7pm for an evening of acoustic music, worship and prayer.
Share this weekend’s message with someone who needs to hear this message. Follow this link and the share it out via an email, Facebook or your other favorite social media platforms.
May 19-20 is our next Employment Workshop. It’s free and can help out you or someone you know. Don’t keep this a secret.
Work behind the scenes to help organize and run the School Supply Shop and Back to School Bash this summer. We’re organizing now. Get involved. Email Karen.
Stephen Hower, Pastor