I really want the Center for Philosophy of Science to be a creative place. I have the idea--perhaps misplaced--that creativity comes with lightness of spirit.
If you are reminded of the gravity of your task, the seriousness of your purpose, the height from which you will fall, how will you react? All but the bravest or most foolish will retract and produce thinking that is cautious, protected and endlessly hedged.
If you are surrounded by frivolity, by warmth and acceptance, by lightness of spirit, you feel safe. You can relax. You can be emboldened to try something different, something dangerous. You can dream of soaring without fear of falling.
Each year, as the new Fellows arrive, I wonder, will they feel the lightness? In one case, it was answered quite quickly.
Sara had been here for only few days, when a delightful email from her appeared in my inbox. She'd found a wonderful image on the web of philosophy explained in terms of donuts.
Heraclitus: you can't eat the same donut twice.
Plato: All donuts share in ideal "donut-ness."
and so on.
I was inspired and added to the list.
Democritus: Donuts are made of crumbs. So clean up.
Parmenides: Donuts cannot be divided. Get your own.
Leibniz: There is only one donut. I saw it first.
We were starting something fun and interesting. This might be something good for our whiteboard in our lounge, I suggested hesitantly.
A little while later, I passed the lounge and there she was hard at work.
I joined her and started to draw a big donut. I failed several times and gave up in disgust. But then some projects cannot be left, so I went back and did a little better.
Did Sara notice? I was loath to go and boast of my success, when it was so meager. Then a little while later, I noticed someone had written "WOW" next to it on the board.
John D. Norton