America celebrates the contributions of its famous inventors and thinkers. The great artists and scientist of the past are much revered and well-recognized for their deeds. Looking at history, one would think that creativity would be amply rewarded now. You would be wrong. We do not appreciate our creative class the ones that think outside the box, the ones with new ideas. We love the results of invention, but hate the process of inventing and by reference, any practitioner of that process. The reason is simple, creativity engenders change and change spawns uncertainty and uncertainty causes disruption. We are all afraid of that.
The truth is that we value conformity over creativity. Conformity ruffles no feathers. Conformists get along with everyone. They get along to go along. Conformists always offer the safe solution, the sound solution. Creative people are always coming out of left-field or going off the deep end. It is always easier for authority and for the collective to choose from what it knows than to try something new and different.
Where does this leave the creative class? Spurned, alienated they can become loners. It can be a sad lifestyle, sad enough to hack off one’s ear. Some fail, some miserably, but not all. Some creative people channel this rejection by redoubling their efforts. They strike out on their own. They become greater risk takers. Eventually, given some thought, enough time and a little bit of luck, they can also become successful, sometimes wildly so.
The above pictured quote is from Louis Sachar’s young-adult novel Holes. It is part of a collection of literature quotes that were inlaid in the ceiling of the newly renovated Saint Louis Public Library’s main branch. The public library is where for a dollar fifty in late charges, you can get the same education as a person who drops 150 grand in college tuition, to paraphrase the movie, Good Will Hunting. You just have to be able to think for yourself, instead of having someone else tell you how to think.