Horsehead Nebula

 

Chet is just a maven of embracing failure, but also a master on the topic balancing two concepts that on the surface might seem opposed, but underneath really have a critical cross-dependency. Many of this dualities pivot along the same lines as Leadership (upside) and Management (downside). One of my favourites is excerpted from Chet Raymo’s book ‘Skeptics and True Believers’ in his post ‘Yearning and Learning’

In an article on the psychological basis of belief, the psychologist James Alcock proposed that two aspects of the human brain might be called the ‘yearning unit’ and the ‘learning unit.’ He probably didn’t mean these terms to be taken literally, as referring to separate compartments of the brain, but yearning and learning are certainly central to the way we interact with the world. It is hard to imagine how we can be fully human without a little of each. Finding the proper balance between the two is a task that can keep us occupied for most of our lives.

  • We yearn when we dream of fulfilment, of greater happiness, of knowing more. We yearn when we love, when we laugh, when we cry, when we pray. Yearning is wondering what is around the next bend, over the rainbow, beyond the horizon. Yearning is curiosity. Yearning is the driving force of science, philosophy, and religion.
  • Learning is listening to parents, wise men, shamans. Learning is reading, going to school, traveling, doing experiments, being skeptical. Learning is looking behind the curtain for the Wizard of Oz, touching the stove to see if it’s hot, not taking anyone’s word for it. In science, learning means trying as hard to prove that something is wrong as to prove it right, even if that something is a cherished belief.
  • Yearning without learning is seeing Elvis in a crowd, the fossilized footprints of humans and dinosaurs together in ancient rocks, weeping statues. Yearning without learning is buying tabloid newspapers with headlines announcing ‘Newborn baby talks of Heaven’ and the like. Yearning without learning is looking for UFOs in the sky and the meaning of life in horoscopes.
  • Learning without yearning is pedantry, scientism, dogmatic belief. Learning without yearning is believing that we know it all, that what we see is what we get, that nothing exists except what can be presently weighed and measured. Learning without yearning is science without a heart, without a dream, without a hope of beauty. Yearning without learning is seeing the face of Jesus in a gassy nebula. Learning without yearning is seeing only the gas.”

Leaders are yearners; Managers are learners. Both together are needed for an inspired vision of the world.

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