I am a sucker for a good quote and Thomas Edison has an abundance of them. I think I would have liked to have known him. I imagine he was intelligent, quirky and probably a bit on the snarky side – qualities I personally hold very dear.
One of my favorite quotes of his is “Genius is 99% perspiration and 1% inspiration”. As I thought about this post, I couldn’t help but see how true that is in all of our every day lives as well as the bigger things in life.
As a writer, the inspiration is that image or concept that pops into my head and says “you should write about that!” The hard part, then, is getting that image or concept out of my brain and actually into words on a page that seem like something someone would be willing to take a moment of their time to read. Starting a vegetable garden, a knitting project, or building a rocket to Mars all have that same little tiny seed of inspiration that started it all.
Funny thing is, if I look at faith it seems to me that God is that 1% and we are providing the 99%.
I know. That sounds like blasphemy and I’m not saying this is the next great movement in the field of religious studies, but walk with me on this for just a few moments.
Forgive my repetition here, but just to set the stage, I believe God is all-powerful, omnipotent, omniscient, and most of all loving. If you are to go along with me on these presuppositions, then it isn’t a stretch to say that God didn’t need to work very hard to create the wonder that is our universe. He simply spoke everything into being and it was. All He needed was the inspiration.
If in fact God chose to make man out of clay and woman out of the rib of man, it wasn’t because He couldn’t have done it any other way but rather because he was making a point. After all, at least from my perspective, God doesn’t do anything “just because”.
Just as an aside, I am certain there is a reason the platypus was created the way he was for a reason…I just haven’t figured it out yet. If you have an idea, I would love to hear it!
Back to the topic at hand.
God spoke and we existed. Done. That was the 1%. God is inspiration and because He is God, he doesn’t need the 99%.
So where does that leave us – mankind or any other human-like creature that may or may not exist? Well, this is where it gets both challenging and beautiful.
We are the 99% but not because God likes to see us sweat and grovel. We are the 99% because God wants us to actually grow to know and love Him rather than having Him just create us into a relationship where we love him without reason.
Now before you go getting all up in arms about how hard life is step back for a moment and realize that not only did God give us the opportunity to come into understanding of Him and relationship with Him, but He also gave us a unique gift that only man has – the gift of inspiration.
We also have that unique ability to be inspired and we alone know the amazing feelings of happiness and accomplishment that come from bringing something that we were inspired to do into fruition.
I truly believe that Thomas Edison had unique insight into this. As an inventor, he saw things come into being in front of him that were born from that 1% of inspiration and that used up every single ounce of that 99% perspiration. In trial after trial to harness electricity or create the phonograph, Edison soldiered on. He acknowledged that not succeeding the first time doesn’t mean failure. This is something we as a culture seem to forget every day. We fail once or twice and we give up. As Edison once said, ” Our greatest weakness lies in giving up. The most certain way to succeed is to always try just one more time.”
Edison also realized that success doesn’t always look the way you imagined it would. He once stated, “Just because something doesn’t do what you planned it to do doesn’t mean it doesn’t work.” How many times can we say that about circumstances in our own life? Perhaps they didn’t turn out the way we imagined they would or even the way we would have liked them to, but in the end, the result was far greater than our original goal.
To me, that change – the shift from what we thought we were doing to what we actually did – is a God thing. God knew what we were capable of and provided us with the inspiration to start down the right road. Our job was to simply walk the road before us to get to where we needed to be.
The hard part is that we aren’t always brought up in a way that nurtures the spirit of “if at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.” For me, I remember clearly my mother telling me that I failed and I should quit because I would never be able to do things like math, science, or athletic things. It was this soundtrack in my head that kept me from trying many things until I much older. I was – and to some extent still am – terribly afraid of failing. But what God – and Thomas Edison – are trying to tell us is that we haven’t failed – we just have’t found the one way that will accomplish what it is we were looking to accomplish. There is always a way to succeed, we just need to try a different way.
And where do we find that different way?
Well, through inspiration, of course!
So tell me, kind reader. What have you been inspired to do through the years? Did it turn out the way you thought it would? I would love to hear you stories of inspiration. Who knows, maybe your inspiration is just the seed that someone else needs to succeed!