“Christopher Columbus,” Jo March of Little Women cried whenever she was astonished.
Well, he’s surprised me.
* * *
I first pondered Columbus in 1992, five hundred years after he sailed the ocean blue. Visited a few quincentennial exhibitions, especially one in Minneapolis, which was chiefly focused on the noxious effects of the Columbian Exchange particularly on native peoples.
More recently, in reading Mark Batterson’s Wild Goose Chase, I learned that Columbus was a man of faith.
Most experts believed that finding a westward route to the Indies was impossible. But Columbus challenged the assumption.
He later said that it wasn’t intelligence, mathematics or maps that made his voyage a success. He credited the Holy Spirit with the idea.
Columbus wrote, “It was the Lord who put it in my mind, (I could feel his hand upon me) the fact that it would be possible to sail from here to the Indies. All who heard of my project rejected it with laughter, ridiculing me. There is no question that the inspiration was from the Holy Spirit, because He comforted me with rays of marvellous inspiration from the Holy Scriptures.” (Peter Marshall and David Manuel, The Light and the Glory).
And Columbus sailed with a crew not one of whom had ever been more than three hundred miles offshore.
* * *
Columbus was honoured by King Ferdinand which aroused some jealousy. His rivals murmured that anyone could have sailed there, and discovered a New World.
Columbus called for some hard-boiled eggs. “Can you make them stand up on end?” he asked his critics at court.
“Of course,” they said, but failed.
He slammed an egg down on the table, and it stood up on its flat, broken end.
“We could do that,” the nobles muttered.
“But you didn’t think of it,” said Columbus. You could have taken my route—but you didn’t think of it. I “thought” of it first.”
* * *
When I wander around modern art galleries, I frequently hear one matron say to another, “My child could have done that.”
Ah, but did they think of it?
Genius thinks of what no one else has before, and makes it appear simple.
And the Holy Spirit gives us ideas no one has had before, and makes them appear elegant and natural.