November 15, 2003
Contact: Mardi Jones, Ph.D
Dear Web Page Visitor,
In a recent conversation with
Mike Cohen I learned something that he's never mentioned previously.
In 1986 a group of experts in social innovation, held an international
symposium in England on the Isle of Wight. This group included
members and associates of the Bureau of Applied Sciences, the
Institute of Social Inventions and The Global Idea Bank, Its
purpose was to identify and give visibility to a small group
of individuals whose "Unconventional Ideas in Science, Medicine
and Sociology" had made significant social contributions
that had never before been properly acknowledged or recognized.
Informally called "The Maverick Genius Conference,"
each of these selected individuals was unofficially identified
as a "Maverick Genius" because in a society that valued
the contribution of their social invention, they would be acclaimed
as geniuses as exemplified by Albert Einstein, John Stuart Mill,
Stephan Hawking, William James, Darwin, Mozart, Descartes, Curie,
The organizers of the Symposium
identified Mike Cohen as a Maverick Genius and invited him to
England to familiarize the conference attendees with his work.
He was chosen for his thinking and innovative programs that led
him to conceive and found the 1985 National Audubon Society International
Symposium "Is the Earth a Living Organism." This included
his Grand Canyon discovery in 1966 that Planet Earth could be
viewed as a living organism and his creation of organic expedition
education books, curricula, psychologies, therapies, schools,
institutions and the Whole Life Factor that helped people build
balanced relationships from empirical evidence and experiences
within the framework of his living Earth discovery. His thinking
was also instrumental in stopping the development of the Pittston
Oil Refinery in Eastport, Maine in 1984.
Mike's brother, John, similarly
displays innovative genius in his fields of endeavor. Could it
be genetic? I learned from Mike that he is distantly related
to Moishe Sharat, a Prime Minister and founding father of the
State of Israel.
In questioning Mike about the
symposium, he said that the conference chair, Bruce Denness,
explained that some of the criteria used to determine who would
be invited fit into the descriptions of genius (see my list,
below; I think it accurately reflect Mike's work.)
"The principal mark of
a genius is not perfection but originality, the opening of new
"Genius not only diagnoses
the situation but supplies the answers."
"Genius is the ability
to reduce the complicated to the simple."
C. W. Ceran
"It takes immense genius
to represent, simply and sincerely, what we see in front of us."
"Genius . . . is the capacity
to see ten things where the ordinary man sees one."
"A genius is one who shoots
at something no one else can see, and hits it."
" Genius is the capacity
for productive reaction against one's training."
"True genius resides in
the capacity for evaluation of uncertain, hazardous, and conflicting
"Towering genius disdains
a beaten path. It seeks regions hitherto unexplored."
Creative genius: "Individuals
credited with creative ideas or products that have left a large
impression on a particular domain of intellectual or aesthetic
"Persons of genius, and
those who are most capable of art, are always most fond of nature:
as such are chiefly sensible, that all art consists in the imitation
and study of nature."
"What makes men of genius,
or rather, what they make, is not new ideas, it is that idea
- possessing them - that what has been said has still not been
"Some superior minds are
unrecognized because there is no standard by which to weigh them."
A good criteria to determine
a genius is to see whether he has caused a paradigm shift in
"My father taught me that
a symphony was an edifice of sound, and I learned pretty soon
that it was built by the same kind of mind in much the same way
that a building was built.... Even the very word 'organic' means
that nothing is of value except as it is naturally related to
the whole in the direction of some living purpose, a true part
-Frank Lloyd Wright, quoted in Jonathan Hale, The Old Way
"Those individuals that
rise to the particular challenges of emerging in a civilization
when it is in some way endangered and who make a response to
ensure the continuity of the civilization."
"The willingness and ability
to challenge conventional wisdom. Perhaps even more importantly,
scientific genius depends on an instinct for invention, an ability
to focus on the problem at hand, and a determination to pursue
that problem to a successful conclusion."
In the interest of strengthening
Project NatureConnect, NSTP and NIAL, I'd like to take the Symposium's
findings a step further and get folks who are familiar with Mike
and his work to endorse him as a Maverick
Genius. This may bring further attention and credibility
to Project NatureConnect and the work we each do that incorporates
Mike's new book, The Web
of Life Imperative along with Reconnecting With Nature
and the Project NatureConnect website make excellent documents
of what Mike has done and its outcomes; it is not necessary for
us to further define it. However, if you want to make a short
statement that shares how your relationship with PNC or Mike
fit into one or more of the definitions of Genius, that would
be a helpful contribution. I'll put it all together and make
a web page out of it and we can see where it goes from there.
It would no doubt be an interesting press release if nothing
else, one that might catch the attention of the McArthur Foundation
and other support organizations that give financial awards to
outstanding contributions. I
writing an anthology of Mike's lifework as reflected in his nature
think your ideas and comments on his 'Maverick Genius' status
would make an interesting chapter.