Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Some enchanted evening.

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As I wrote in an earlier post, I am reading right now "Turing's Cathedral: The Origins of the Digital Universe" by Freeman Dyson's son (and Esther Dyson's brother) George Dyson. The book is a look into the lives, minds and experiments of some of the foremost scientists of the 20th Century. The men--and a few women--who unraveled the mysteries of physics, mathematics and more to develop both the H-bomb and our modern-day computers. Much of the book is centered on the work done at the Institute for Advanced Study, which assembled teams of thinkers which were to science what the 1927 Yankees were to baseball. That is, the best of the best. Legends all.

In the midst of my reading I happened to think of the Rodgers and Hammerstein song "Some Enchanted Evening" from the musical "South Pacific," particularly a couplet from the third verse:
"Fools give you reasons/Wise men never try." Here are the complete lyrics:

Some enchanted evening
You may see a stranger,
you may see a stranger
Across a crowded room
And somehow you know,
You know even then
That somewhere you'll see her
Again and again.

Some enchanted evening
Someone may be laughin',
You may hear her laughin'
Across a crowded room
And night after night,
As strange as it seems
The sound of her laughter
Will sing in your dreams.

Who can explain it?
Who can tell you why?
Fools give you reasons,
Wise men never try.


Some enchanted evening
When you find your true love,
When you feel her call you
Across a crowded room,
Then fly to her side,
And make her your own
Or all through your life you
May dream all alone.

Once you have found her,
Never let her go.
Once you have found her,
Never let her go!
 -
Those lines: "Fools give you reasons/Wise men never try" have extraordinary relevance in most of the great advances of mankind over the last few dozen millennia.  They were certainly resonant in Princeton when the "code" for our modern age was being written. Experimentation, intuition and imagination carried the day. Not just intelligence, logic and research.

After nearly 30 years in the advertising, I think those lines have a lot to teach us. There are scores of candy-asses running around agencies, and clients, and research companies--that have all the answers. They have boiled down the known universe (which--according to how much you know--is the unknown universe) into a series of "if-then" causalities.

They have mechanized advertising in order to take ideas and serendipity out.
They have time-sheeted things to eliminate inspiration.
They have new-speaked processes to obfuscate.

Reality isn't full of answers.
It's full of questions.




1 comment:

dave trott said...

George,
Re your post, here are two quotes I always loved:

"The wise man knows he doesn't know.
The fool doesn't know he doesn't know."
Lao Tzu

"The problem with this world is that the ignorant are arrogant and cocksure, while the intelligent are full of doubt."
Whitehead