Many gifted people around me have a soft spot for fantasy, science fiction or „esotericism“. It is as if the real everyday world is not enough for them, as if they still must think their way into other worlds. I like to be a worldwanderer, too. Why is that? Is it simply a mental under-utilisation?
Or is it a highly sensitive perception in the metaphysical realm, which then naturally leads to a preoccupation with other levels of reality in an attempt to explain the world one perceives? (My apologies to all those who have already been upset by the misused term „esotericism“. Those who have and live a highly sensitive gift will hopefully forgive a kindred author a small linguistic simplification…).
the Science fiction and fantasy reader as a sensitive, imaginative, highly gifted worldwanderer.
Let me develop a concept: the highly sensitive, highly gifted seek their explanatory models precisely in metaphysics, in various cultures. Those who, because of their education, cannot accept that elemental beings or auras or energetic healing methods exist, must put their overflowing imagination at the service of science, i.e., head for revolutionary but rational science fiction. And those who grow up in an even more closed world view, surrounded by normally gifted people who declare normal problems and normal ways of solving them to be the only reality, they look for a more „harmless“ outlet for their psychic and spiritual abilities, too far removed from the world surrounding them to allow transfer or impact in everyday life, and therefore supposedly harmless: fantasy. Of course, all conceivable hybrid forms are included.
So, the wild thesis: unconscious, unrecognised high giftedness is attracted to fantasy, lived high giftedness (possibly without a conscious spiritual anchor) is attracted to science fiction, and lived high giftedness with high sensitivity is attracted to metaphysics.
Are not then the authors of fantasy and science fiction also highly gifted?
Stanislaw Lem is said to have been the most intelligent child in Poland with an IQ of 180, Isaac Asimov was a (critical) MENSA member for some time… there does seem to exist a pattern. And when you consider that many writers of fantasy or science fiction have had prolific scientific careers, it is easy to see fiction work as an outlet for underutilised areas of talent. While researching the topic, I came across Matthias Giger’s master’s thesis, from 2006, entitled „High giftedness and science fiction – fantastic connections?“ („Hochbegabung und Science-Fiction, Phantastische Zusammenhänge?“ It can be found at http://www.gigers.com/matthias/begabt/Masterarbeit_Hochbegabung_SF.pdf ). Giger also posed the question, albeit in a narrower context, referring only to the authors, and concluded that there is indeed an accumulation of gifted people among English-language science fiction authors, which he examined more closely. Giger writes on p.158, last paragraph:
„The conclusion to be drawn is the following: science fiction is not simply entertainment literature for simple minds, but has much to offer the gifted, if selected appropriately. Be it because it takes up original ideas and develops alternative scenarios or because it addresses the concerns and problems that gifted people have to face like no other genre of literature.“
That fits in with what I perceive around me: books, series, and films about superheroes, about teams with different giftedness focuses, for example in the field of kinetic or interpersonal intelligence, about autistic people, or simply very special people… everywhere you can find the theme of being different, of having an above-average talent in some area. If you look out for it. If you actively search for the topic. If you are sensitive to it. If you are concerned.
Far from being opium for the people or simple escapism, this literature, these film worlds, give people who resonate with them the feeling that they are not alone. The security of being seen and noticed.
And because I feel like it, I will put forward another thesis: this form of escapism, to be a worldwanderer who craves this immersion in strange, fantastic, distant worlds, is not harmful for highly gifted people, as some teachers and parents claim, but is actually vital! In the material itself, they find adequate identification figures, and get to know the coping strategies of others (possibly the authors), and in the fan community, in the fandom, they can experience the security of the pack, which they otherwise so often lack. When you realise that you associate much more with a sofa in a stairwell or with hollow asteroids or with a discworld than your more unread contemporaries might do – and suddenly there is an other worldwanderer who gets you!
That feeling of finally having a common ground is priceless!
I just remembered the women of the „Big Bang Theory“ and Thor’s hammer: to spend hours discussing the consequences of certain fictional elements is, for me, a sure sign of giftedness. The playful utilisation of brain capacity, together with like-minded people, heals and helps. And that it is good not to be a freak for a change, but to talk lovingly and condescendingly about the Muggles, is something all the young people concerned probably know. Hermione, born into an average family as a highly gifted child, finally gets to show what she can do! And Sheldon Cooper, for all his obnoxiousness, is still somehow endearing.
So, what do you think? Are you a gifted worldwanderer, too?
I am very happy to hear about this great topic, because as a voracious reader, advocate of the philosophical and psychological mastery of many fantasy novels, passionate series junkie and occasional cineaste, I am tired of all the „that’s cheap escapism“ comments! How do you feel about it?
Heartfelt, wherever you are,
P.S.: This is a revised and translated version of my German blog post from 2 July 2014, which you can find here: Hochbegabte Weltenwanderer.
P.P.S.: So, tell us: what do you think?