Monday, September 3, 2007

The Work of Genius

Labor Day produces meditations on labor, but few of them celebrate work as a uniquely human act.

Animals build things, of course, but they build because of an evolutionary algorithm. There is no evidence that they build anything with an image of the finished product in mind, or that they consciously compare one product to another. They probably do not understand what they have done.

Humans, on the other hand, have the ability to journey back into the past, and to project the results of their activity into the future. They imagine what they will do, and compare it with what has been done before. They do all this through the powerful institutions of language, literature, science and culture, all of which are made possible by the human mind. In a very real sense, we all work with our minds.

Our planet holds six billion people, each with a unique and valuable mind, a set of cognitive skills and knowledge that expands the creative possibilities of all the world. Mathematically, the varieties of human creativity are endless. We are surrounded by the work of genius every day. We just don't recognize it, because it is not our genius. But it is genius, nonetheless.

How can we best explore the possibilities of this creative energy? Freedom. Only freedom allows individuals to utilize their cognitive skills and knowledge to the fullest. Only freedom allows individuals to own what they create. Only freedom allows for a continuous process of discovery and innovation. Only freedom allows individuals to discuss, compare and criticize the work of others, living and dead, both the famous and the obscure.

Work, as the conscious creative act of free individuals, is what makes us fully human.

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