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Tuesday, December 16, 2008

The difference...

Malcolm Gladwell's revisionist Outliers has been receiving deserved attention and commentary. Gladwell--in his inimitable way--subverts the sentimental fantasy that each of us can "be whatever we want to be" by demonstrating that the most successful among us are always the beneficiaries of fortunate social circumstances. I agree with him. But that's not the whole story. There's another quality that distinguishes not just the "successful" individuals (for "success" is also socially-determined) but the most creative humans. That quality is skepticism. Specifically, it's the power and tenacity to question the conventional. This distinctive ability--which really is nevertheless available to all of us--characterizes all the people who's work has endured, from philosophers to physicists, and includes not only artists but uncategorizable individuals like Jesus. If you don't believe me, mention anyone you care to and I'll show you how they illustrate my point. As I like to say, answers can only be enforced, while questions can always be asked...


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