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February 15, 2024

The Holy Surprise of Thinking on Your Own

He was a loner with an intimate bond to humanity, a rebel who was suffused with reverence. An imaginative, impertinent patent clerk became the mind reader of the creator of the universe, the locksmith of mysteries of the atom and the universe.

--Walter Issacson, in Einstein: His Life and Universe (Simon & Schuster, 2007)

Children come with Imagination. It's standard issue.

--Holden Oliver in 2009

"E" at the beach: Another fresh take.

Try this at home and work: The Holy Surprise of a Child's First Look. Forget for a moment, if you can, about Clients and Paris. This blog is at heart about Quality, Old Verities, and Values--the things no business, government, non-profit group, religion, politician or leader (a) wants to give you or (b) can give you. No, not even family and friends can. You have to find them on your own. Work and Service, whether you are paid for them or not, are inseparable from these things.

At the blog, at our firm, and in our lives, we seek--in the largest sense--serious overachievers, and aficionados of life, past and present: identifying them, learning from them, having them as friends, hiring them and above all, never holding them back. It is often hard to find these people--or even to remember that they once existed. We do, after all, live in a cookie-cutter world. Originality, intuition, authentic spirituality, and even taste are not valued--these traits are often feared and attacked--in most of the West. This is especially true in America, where we continue to be geographically, culturally and (some think) cosmically isolated. The United States, despite its successes, high standard of living and exciting possibilities, has become world headquarters of both moral pretension and dumbing life down. Besides, fresh thinking leads to painful recognitions. It's easier to let something else do the thinking for us.

"Fragmentation" is a word some people (including those with better credentials than the undersigned to write this) have used for decades to describe modern humans all over the world: lots of wonderful, intricate and even elegant pieces--but no whole. So, in our search for coherence, we look for clues. We look to television, advertising, and malls. To work, and to professional organizations. To secondary schools, universities, and any number of religions (none of the latter seem "special"--they say identical intuitive and common sense good things, but just say them differently), and to an array of other well-meaning institutions. In fairness, all of these have their moments (hey, we all like our insular clubs).

And, importantly, we seek answers from others we know and love--family and friends--who have been soaked in the same messages and reveries, who make us feel comfortable with the same choices, values and lives that gnaw at us all in rare moments of clarity and solitude, and who are able to "reassure" us so we can get back "on track".

So what's missing? We think it's Imagination. Children come with Imagination. It's standard issue. Some lucky adults hold onto Imagination, even as it is bombarded with a tricky, confusing, and lob-sided mix of messages favoring mediocrity over quality. Until Imagination becomes a value in and of itself, a lot us will "shuffle off" life on earth without even knowing what happened in the past 80-odd years. We denied ourselves (a) thinking our own thoughts and (b) acting on our own. We would not even fight for these qualities. We would not take chances. We built, embraced and often defended a Cliff's Notes life. We were uninspired, desperate to fit in, and frightened. We "missed it". We missed it All--like drunks who slept through the Super Bowl. Our children, friends and people who respected and loved us even took notes on what we thought, said and did here as "spiritual beings" having a "human experience. They emulated us. That means you and me, Jack. How do you feel about that? Oh well. Next time, maybe?

Which brings us, finally, to Albert Einstein. True, few of us can have Einstein's talent for Western logic, or his IQ. But Einstein's advantage over other physicists may have been that he was a "new soul". He looked at everything as if he were seeing it for the first time. Imagination.

Take work. He approached it from a wellspring of joy. There are, and have been, others like Einstein in that respect. Those are the kind of people we want as friends to inspire us, and as co-workers to solve clients' problems. His IQ and genius is not the point. We'll take an IQ a lot lower than Einstein's (for associates, though, Coif or Law Review would be nice).

Reverence and a child's awe. Imagination. That's the outlook we prize here at WAC? Energy, intensity and creativity always seem to come with it. If it comes with serious brains, we'll take that, too.

From past posts since 2007, and with grateful nods to Samuel John Hazo and Cleveland's Peter B. Friedman.

Posted by JD Hull at February 15, 2024 03:59 AM


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