the subtle curse

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Monday, April 16, 2012
Knowledge can be a subtle curse.  When we learn about the world, we also learn all the reasons why the world cannot be changed. We get used to our failures and imperfections. We become numb to the possibilities of something new. In fact, the only way to remain creative over time--to not be undone by our expertise--is to experiment with ignorance, to stare at things we don't fully understand. This is the lesson of Samuel Taylor Coleridge, the nineteenth century Romantic poet. One of his favorite pastimes was attending public chemistry lectures in London, watching eminent scientists set elements on fire. When Coleridge was asked why he spent so much time watching these pyrotechnic demonstrations, he had a ready reply. "I attend the lectures," Coleridge said, "so that I can renew my stock of metaphors." He knew that we see the most when we are on the outside looking in. 
-Jonah Lehrer, Imagine: How Creativity Works  from The Outsiders chapter. There are a million other things I could quote because it's a very quotable book, but this one jumped out.
4 comments on "the subtle curse"
  1. Chemistry is one of the disciplines of science. It colours our life with the discovery of different hidden colours of nature and all the things necessary for making our life happier. The study of chemistry is a must for the advancement of society and for making mankind happier. Chemistry is concerned with rocks, minerals, non-minerals, air, water, plants, animals, other materials of organic origin earth atmosphere, interstellar atmosphere.

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  2. I heard someone else talk about this book. I'm always drawn to these kinds of books, but I'm also usually disappointed by them. And yet I keep going, moth to the flame. Is this one good? Gimme a reason to go off the wagon again!

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    Replies
    1. Hmmmm. I certainly enjoyed it while I was reading it, but it doesn't leave much of an impression afterwards. I like the quote above, I liked the parts that were to do with the right brian/left brain physical realities of creativity, but much of the middle felt like mushy Gladwell-esque "science" and was strangely obsessed with where Pixar has their bathrooms. I had the same problem I had with Proust Was a Neuroscientist - it's an interesting thought stretched too far. It wanted to be a magazine article but was pounded thin to make a book.

      I just started another brain book - Incognito by David Eagleman, which so far is about the sheer improbability and weirdness of carrying around a supercomputer on top of our shoulders. So far I love it. (I think he's a better writer than Lehrer.)

      That being said - Imagine is a quick read and set up in chapters that you can easily skip around. Get it from the library!

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  3. I like the cover. I wonder--did the author design it, or did the publisher hire it done. Bet a lot of people will be drawn to the book because of that cover. I would be, anyway. Pick it up, browse, think "Maybe I could learn something about that elusive thing I find so mysterious, so wonderful." Alas, maybe not?

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