Creating an Original Self

young-steve-jobsby John Lobell

I recall in high school English class reading an essay by Emerson and being asked by my teacher, what I thought. I said that I thought, “What am I doing in high school, I should drop out and get on with my life.” She replied, “That is not what he meant at all.” She did not tell me what Emerson did mean, and of course that was exactly what he meant.

We often think of our culture as being defined by its technological advances, and that characterization is in part correct. But why do we have those technological advances and why were they initially unique to the West? It is due to the release of individual creativity. And our first creative task? To create an original Self.

In his Letters to a Young Poet, Ranier Maria Rilke writes: Read more

Do you create alone or in groups?


thinkerI notice that my students are today smarter, more attentive, more hard working than in the past. And also less imaginative. When I discuss this with them, it becomes apparent that many faculty do not want students to exercise their imaginations—they want them to be good little sponges and absorb what they are told. And then spout it back.

We see the effort to repress individuality and impose groupthink everywhere, beginning in kindergarten where children are assigned group projects and extending into colleges. Everywhere we are told that we need community, collaboration, cooperation, consensus, compromise. Read more

A No to School


school-supplies-accessories-isolated-white-background-globe-notebook-stack-pencils-back-to-concept-33130205by John Lobell

Summer is over, and school is restarting. Is it ok to say no to school? Once schools held a monopoly on learning resources—libraries, labs, lectures. Today all of this is free online or open source.

In the 1940s and 50s, when boys with unkempt hair were scolded by their mothers and they said that Einstein had unkempt hair, their mothers would respond, “When you are as smart and famous as Einstein, you can keep your hair unkempt.” One can imagine similar exchanges today regarding Bill Gates and dropping out of college. But while Bill Gates famously dropped out of Harvard, he is far from alone. Read more