Cory Leonard

Archive for the ‘ideas’ Category

How Commencement Speeches Go Viral

In ideas on August 16, 2014 at 12:49 am

What makes a good commencement speech? These are some good ones–dissected and broken down by Bruce Feiler, just in time for August graduation ceremonies:

Mr. Saunders said one reason these speeches are so popular today is that they resonate as much with the parents as with the children. “In those ceremonial occasions, everybody pauses,” he said. The parents pause to go, “Wow, I can’t believe my kid is graduating.” The kids pause because they are about to leap into a new situation. “In the same way at a wedding or funeral,” he said, “you take a breath and say, ‘We’re living here.’ And in that pause moment, I think we’re a little more porous.”

via How Commencement Speeches Go Viral –



Lennon and McCartney as Models of Creativity

In ideas on August 3, 2014 at 8:50 pm

How does creativity work? Is the lone genius a myth?

But the Lennon-McCartney story also illustrates the key feature of creativity; it is the joining of the unlike to create harmony. Creativity rarely flows out of an act of complete originality. It is rarely a virgin birth. It is usually the clash of two value systems or traditions, which, in collision, create a transcendent third thing.

Shakespeare combined the Greek honor code (thou shalt avenge the murder of thy father) with the Christian mercy code (thou shalt not kill) to create the torn figure of Hamlet. Picasso combined the traditions of European art with the traditions of African masks. Saul Bellow combined the strictness of the Jewish conscience with the free-floating go-getter-ness of the American drive for success.

Sometimes creativity happens in pairs, duos like Lennon and McCartney who bring clashing worldviews but similar tastes. But sometimes it happens in one person, in someone who contains contradictions and who works furiously to resolve the tensions within.

via The Creative Climate –


Creativity. (Really)

In ideas on May 18, 2014 at 3:04 pm

Creativity has officially attained buzzword status and it remains to be seen if teaching creativity has any lasting impact–but these attributes of “highly creative people” are intriguing: daydream, observe everything, make time for solitude, turn obstacles around, and people-watch, among others.

Neuroscience paints a complicated picture of creativity. As scientists now understand it, creativity is far more complex than the right-left brain distinction would have us think (the theory being that left brain = rational and analytical, right brain = creative and emotional). In fact, creativity is thought to involve a number of cognitive processes, neural pathways and emotions, and we still don’t have the full picture of how the imaginative mind works.

And psychologically speaking, creative personality types are difficult to pin down, largely because they’re complex, paradoxical and tend to avoid habit or routine. And it’s not just a stereotype of the “tortured artist” — artists really may be more complicated people. Research has suggested that creativity involves the coming together of a multitude of traits, behaviors and social influences in a single person.

“It’s actually hard for creative people to know themselves because the creative self is more complex than the non-creative self,” Scott Barry Kaufman, a psychologist at New York University who has spent years researching creativity,

via 18 Things Highly Creative People Do Differently.

Author Jonah Lehrer has documented some of the more recent research on creativity–and links them to how organizations are employing these insights.  One takeaway:  Hard work matters, not just long walks or hot showers.

“It would be wonderful if the recipe for all kinds of creativity was to take showers and play ping-pong and go on vacation and go for walks on the beach, but when you really talk to people in the creative business, they want to tell their romantic stories about the epiphanies but then if you push them, they say even that epiphany had to go through lots of edits on it and iterations and lots of hard work after we have the big idea. And that’s a big part of the creative process too, and it is not as fun. In fact, there’s evidence that it makes us melancholy and a little bit depressed. But it’s a crucial part in creating something interesting and worthwhile. If creativity were always easy or about these blinding flashes, Picasso would not be so famous.”

via Fostering Creativity and Imagination  in the Workplace | NPR

The Need to Know on College

In career, ideas on May 13, 2014 at 3:03 pm

Learning to think critically is necessary but not sufficient. A well-rounded, educated person must be able to engage wholly.  Its becomes a matter of absorption in compelling work, taking us to “openness and full “participation.”


The skill at unmasking error, or simple intellectual one-upmanship, is not totally without value, but we should be wary of creating a class of self-satisfied debunkers — or, to use a currently fashionable word on campus, people who like to “trouble” ideas. In overdeveloping the capacity to show how texts, institutions or people fail to accomplish what they set out to do, we may be depriving students of the chance to learn as much as possible from what they study.

More like this:

Of course critical reflection is fundamental to teaching and scholarship, but fetishizing disbelief as a sign of intelligence has contributed to depleting our cultural resources. Creative work, in whatever field, depends upon commitment, the energy of participation and the ability to become absorbed in works of literature, art and science. That type of absorption is becoming an endangered species of cultural life, as our nonstop, increasingly fractured technological existence wears down our receptive capacities.

via Young Minds in Critical Condition –

Beauty and Power in Books & Ideas

In ideas on May 6, 2014 at 5:00 am

The life of the mind, a love of literature and ideas, and a society in crisis: themes from David Brooks on the connection between Isaiah Berlin and a momentous visit to Anna Akhmatova.

Berlin and Akhmatova were from a culture that assumed that, if you want to live a decent life, you have to possess a certain intellectual scope. You have to grapple with the big ideas and the big books that teach you how to experience life in all its richness and make subtle moral and emotional judgments.

Berlin and Akhmatova could experience that sort of life-altering conversation because they had done the reading. They were spiritually ambitious. They had the common language of literature, written by geniuses who understand us better than we understand ourselves.

via Love Story –


Richard Hofstadter and America’s New Wave of Anti-Intellectualism – The Daily Beast

In ideas, politics on March 14, 2014 at 4:26 am

So the financial crisis, government disfunction, and two major wars have taken a toll–lending to the rise of “the mystique of practicality” as aptly described by Richard Hofstadter in 1963.

Writing in The Daily Beast, David Masciotra connects analyses on an earlier period in America–and showing their relevance to today, from the Tea Party to change in higher ed.

The liberal arts are in need of a new name. The intellectual agility and mobility, and the comfort with abstract thought that is attainable and improvable through vigorous engagement with the humanities, fine arts, and social sciences leads to creativity, individuality, and most of all, liberty. The liberty arts are, in significant ways, superior to the servile arts sold by dominant culture across college campuses, where the best outcome is the qualification to serve an employer with the perfect obedience.

Richard Hofstadter wrote that “The preference for vocationalism is linked to a preference for character—or personality—over mind, and for conformity and manipulative facility over individuality and talen

via Richard Hofstadter and America’s New Wave of Anti-Intellectualism – The Daily Beast.


You Are What You Read

In ideas on March 2, 2014 at 11:51 pm

tin-house-53-cover 2eb09863-733b-4e52-8d36-083134c36d31_photo McSweeneys9 n1

Its the premise for a Nick Hornsby novel: our playlists, favorites, bookmarks, and subscriptions create our identity. And now it appears that your literary tote bag and your journal subscription may also give you away.

N + 1 is self-consciously pugnacious and intellectual, in the style of the old Partisan Review. McSweeney’s and The Believer are offbeat — reading them is like browsing in a word-drunk Etsy — and uncommonly appealing to look at. Tin House somehow resembles your beautiful ex-girlfriend who lucked her way into the Iowa Writers’ Workshop and is doing surprisingly well there.

via ‘MFA vs NYC: The Two Cultures of American Fiction’ –