Genius without credentials

I’ve just started ready The Tempest by William Shakespeare. In the intro to the edition I have, editor Louis B. Wright goes on a rant about the historians who like to insist that Shakespeare couldn’t possible have written so many good plays; that he must have stolen other people’s material:

Most anti-Shakespeareans are naive and betray and obvious snobbery. The author of their favorite plays, they imply, must have had a college diploma framed and hung on his study wall like the one in their dentist’s office, and obviously so great a writer must have had a title or some equally significant evidence of exalted social background. They forget that genius has a way of cropping up in unexpected places and that none of the great creative writers of the world got his inspiration in a college or university course.

Living and working an academia for the past seven years, I’ve certainly seen the “my vita is longer than yours” contest and the “my degree is from a more prestigious institution than yours” game played pretty regularly. It’s funny though, Dan Bukvich, the professor in our music department with by far the most creative output and renown for pedagogical excellence only has a Master’s from a place nobody has heard of. Einstein didn’t have a degree worth mentioning at all, just enough to get his foot in the door as a bookkeeper while he pondered physics at night. I didn’t realize Shakespeare was another example of this.

I think I like stories like this because they fly in the face of snobbery. I think deep down I wish I WAS in the snob class with a degree from Juliard or MIT, working a “respectable” post. But I don’t have those things and never will. I wasn’t born into enough money. Stories like this give me hope that I can “be somebody” even though I haven’t been seemingly dealt the best hand. Now, all of this may be just trying to stoke up my own pride when I should just accept being humbled, but I think there is more to it than that. I want to “be somebody” just as much as the next guy. The drive for excellence is implanted in many of us. It can be twisted toward the ego, but I think the Lord put it there in the first place.