Einstein, non-conformity and creativity

Impudently yours

Impudently yours

What made Einstein so creative?

It was not his brain, which they literally embalmed after his death, says Walter Isaacson in his biography of the great man, which will be in the bibliography of my book. It was his utter disregard of authority, his refusal to conform.

What Einstein recognized in people like Galileo was “the passionate fight against any kind of dogma based on authority.” Another time, he wrote a friendĀ  that “A foolish faith in authority is the worst enemy of truth.”

“Long live impudence!” he liked to say, and practiced what he preached.

But he did so with a wry humility. He ignored conventional wisdom more than he rebelled against it. It bored him.

But the world astonished him as it usually astonishes only children but not adults. He himself attributed this child-like ability to be amazed to his late development. Because he learned about space and time later than other toddlers, he thought about these things more deeply.

Several things spring to mind randomly:

One is that Einstein (and Newton and Galileo …) represents the best and most complete refutation–and indeed indictment–of all rote learning, all Confucian/Asian education, and indeed much of traditional education full stop.

Another thought, more in tune with the theme of my book, is that even Einstein’s mental freshness could not last. Something happened to ensure that he would spend the first thirty years of his career as a rebel and the next thirty as a resister. “To punish me for my contempt for authority, fate made me an authority myself,” he joked.

What was this treacherous something? It’ll be in Chapter 8 of my book.

More Amy Tan, on creativity

Just following up on this weekend’s “writer’s Koan” by Amy Tan, best-selling author. For those of you who are interested, here is Amy speaking at the TED conference about the subject of creativity.

And for those of you who haven’t heard of the TED conference, it’s a sort of “cooler, hipper Davos,” traditionally held in Monterey, California, but now moving to L.A. I’ve gone once. Mind-blowing. A smorgasbord of intellectual stimuli from all fields of human endeavor–design, politics, philsophy, ideas, physics, environment, etc. And now it’s all online!

I digress. Here is Amy:

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