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Morpho Butterfly

"She is so talented!"

"It is just pure talent!"

"His talent is just pure gold!"

What is talent actually? Where does this thing “talent” come from? Well, from where pretty much anything comes from: Ancient Greece. They were all a bunch of talents, the Ancient Greeks, weren't they!

Factually reading, writing and calculus were in use much before the Greeks' moment of glory, but the arts - the theater, music, poetry, and sculpture we ultimately owe to them. Even back then those things were worth money. Once a value of something was established, the way to obtain the desired object was to pay its worth on a weighing scale. On one side of the scale was the price - a piece or several pieces of a certain weight and on the other the equivalent in gold, silver, diamonds... or grain. The word Talanton means balance and a Talent was the standard unit of weight usually measuring between 26 and 36 kg.

In Rome some talent coins had an image of a honey bee symbolising prosperity - no wonder David Beckham looks after bees. What better way to remind himself of his well deserved prosperity.

Getty Museum, Tetradrachm of Ephesus

But the Ancient Greeks did not care only about money. They were philosophers and deep thinkers. They recognised the uniqueness of every man and believed that everybody carries a certain gift. A gift that has a certain weight. On that weight/talent in somebody’s predisposition depended one's ultimate destiny. That One would become whatever “weight” they have inside them. If you wrote exceptionally beautiful music, you would be paid many talents of gold! The better the music, the heavier the weight on the scale.  Talent was never exclusive of a good pay. On the contrary - what you were paid was the evidence of your aptitude, ability, and effort.

Nowadays we recognise talent early mostly due to our vigilant parents' eagle eyes. The talented child gets encouraged and its talent gets actively nurtured. Some lucky children might be granted certain freedoms and get to develop character and opinions on their own, but that is rarely the case. In most cases, the nurture of the talent requires rigid discipline and faithful and blind obedience. If the talent is really that great, the coins start weighing on the scales relatively early, making the parents, the teachers, and the mentors very happy. However True Talent eventually rebels. It wants to fly free of limits. Icarus did not listen to his father and got too close to the sun. Yes, but that is in a legend about obedience.

In truth Talent will alway re - surface from the ashes. The Talent is a true Phoenix. The Talent, encouraged or discouraged at times, will always swim up to the light. The really talented people are perhaps born in circumstances which shape their initial vision of the world, but once free from their cocoons, those people are unstoppable. These butterflies like Psyche and Eros (in formal Greek the word Psyche means both butterfly and soul) in another legend - this time about disobedience - with just a little help by their firends will granted immortality by the gods.

Hermes and Psyche, Palais Garnier, Paris

In the most beautiful legend about love and probably the only one with a happy end (Hollywood, it is about time you made a film! I know who will compose the score.) Eros, the son of the Goddess of Beauty Aphrodite, falls in love with the beautiful girl Psyche, and despite the jealousy and vindictiveness of Aphrodite’s orders, he spares Psyche’s life and wins her love. But true love with all the benefits attached to it, is difficult to believe. Is it possible that everything could be that wonderful? Surely there is something dodgy here. Doubt makes Psyche question her innocent instincts. She goes researching and shines a light in the dark only to discover that the prince is actually a prince. But! (Our lives are full of “ifs" and “buts", aren’t they!) “Love cannot live without a trust” are Eros’ last words before he flies away. Psyche is crushed. She runs after him and is determined to do anything to prove to him her love. The tasks Aphrodite gives to her are impossible. But! (Here we go: another “but”! The Greeks love a good turn of Faith!) the ants, the eagle, the boatman and ultimately Zeus help the girl prove her love and made her immortal so that she could live with her God.

Disobedience wins. Freedom wins.

The real talent might need supporters and Muses, but it ultimately stands alone.

Sei Solo” writes Bach on the top of his sonatas and partitas for solo violin.

J.S. Bach, Six Sonatas and Partitas for solo violin

“You are on your own!” shouts Leopold Mozart at his rebellious son and shuts the door. On his turn his son creates the most profound and beautiful music known to humankind. The poor Mozart was not paid the bags of gold his Talantons his talent required, but if he were to be alive today, he would be having a good laugh. Trough tears.


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