jonah Lehrer

Jonah Lehrer was here in April to take part in OHSU’s Brain Awareness Season lecture series by talking about his book, “Imagine: How Creativity Works,” and he was a hit, both his lecture and his appearance on Think Out Loud for Oregon Public Broadcasting.  Last week, we learned that Lehrer had fabricated some Bob Dylan quotes (and misused some others) in the book, and then Monday, he resigned from his staff position at the New Yorker.

Jonah Lehrer

I happened to be part of a large group invited to have lunch with Lehrer before his lecture, so I’ve been thinking about Lehrer, creativity and journalism “issues,” since the news came out. Nothing like a glancing contact with someone to generate a connection.

I found him bright and engaging, smoothly addressing our questions about creativity and then turning the tables on us to ask us about Portland and how it has become a creative economy hub, of sorts. He didn’t make big claims or say anything especially controversial, at least not that I can remember.

At the end, I thought something like, “smart guy, but the whole creativity thing is way too mushy for him to have really found the ‘answer’ to it.” That’s NOT a direct quote from my mind, just my recollection from several months ago.

We all want to be creative, which is a little weird, because we all ARE creative already, and we have a pretty good idea of what conditions seem to help get the sparks going, even if they aren’t 100 percent reliable—reverie, free association, idle chat that suddenly makes a connection, pounding the head against the keyboard repeatedly. Well, maybe not that last one. But seriously, give your brain a little space and a good cup of coffee and the promise of a warm muffin at the end of the session, and hey, “the shortest distance between two points on a plane is a straight line.”


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