Monday, August 4, 2008

Recommended Read

I read a lot. I have not always been a reader and I don't read particularly fast. Anymore, I find that taking in information, as much as I can, the best quality that I can, is critical to being relevant in the 21st century. Besides, being informed gives meaning to my life, helps me make meaning of my life.

I recommend that everyone be informed, and I am not the most sympathetic person when it comes to excuses. The most common excuse people offer, and I hear it a lot, is I don't have time. I am married to a dyslexic man and have a dyslexic son who both read more than most people despite the effort it takes. They don't complain about the time it takes. Not to be flippant and in all sincerity, we all make time for the things we value. I would much rather hear someone say, I don't value reading/learning/taking in information, or I don't make time. Then, we would have something to talk about that began with honesty.

I just finished Einstein: His Life and Universe by Walter Isaacson. This book is a balanced portrait of Einstein the man and Einstein the theorist. It was refreshing to see Einstein's humanity in the many struggles of his personal relationships and his disdain for the rhythms of daily life. It is humbling to see how his mind worked, especially in that it didn't work well for everything. Einstein struggled with basic math and was not a talented teacher. He lacked empathy and compassion and had few close relationships that were not bound by physics. It is inspiring to realize that Einstein's great discoveries were primarily made possible because of his conscious unwillingness to accept and conform to conventional thinking.

The most inspiring message for me from the book is the importance of developing and sustaining a compulsive sense of curiosity and marvel, a creative spirit, and a great independence of thought. Einstein believed that freedom was the basis for all of his thought work. "The development of science and of the creative activities of the spirit," he said, "requires a freedom that consists in the independence of thought from the restrictions of authoritarian and social prejudice." This nurturing of creativity and independence is what Einstein believed was the fundamental role of government and of education.

Asking in our educational systems how we instill the values of creativity and of independence of thought and of a driving, seeking curiosity instead of requiring allegiance to conventional doctrine is an important new question. We need to create a collective celebrated regard for thinking and problem solving instead of valuing and rewarding inert knowledge. Like President Eisenhower declared of Einstein, we need to become a society that highly values "thoughtful wonderers."

Einstein Archives Online -- Be curious!

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