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from the Editor
The term creativity isnt the strongest word in the
English lexiconthats for sure. Like any word thats the
result of grammatical piling-on (in this case, a noun formed from an adjective
made from a verb), it was a bit nebulous to begin with. And to make matters
worse, its been overused to the point of meaninglessness. Today,
every job description demands it. Every résumé claims it.
Its an inevitable point of parental pride, an excuse for forgetfulness
or temperament, a romantic myth. It has been mapped out in popular simplifications
of science as one entire half of the human brain (as opposed to the other
half, devoted to such things as reason and order). One undoubtedly creative
person whom I consulted pronounced the word DOAa denotative cipher.
So I chose it as the theme of this issue.
I did so because I cant get over the notion that whatever the words
failings, theres a concept here that is important to me personally,
and to a lot of other people as wellespecially the kind of people
who gather around a place like Pomona. And that is the notion that the
endeavor to create something with a claim to newnesssomething that
adds new meaning or beauty or order or safety or honor to our livesis
part of living a worthwhile life.
That is a pretty broad definition of the creative impulse, I know. In
that broad sense, every issue of this magazine could be said to be about
creativityabout people doing new things in every conceivable field.
I wouldnt argue with that. But I still think its a meaningful
conceptor perhaps I should say a meaningful distinction.
It is possible, after all, to live ones life without creating much
of anything. It is possible to live a largely destructive life, or just
a life of moving pieces around on the game-board, winning and losing,
pocketing the proceeds and starting over again. It is possible to live
a life that provides no value-added for society. Its not only possible;
its depressingly common.
So I guess Ive come to think of creativity as something far different
from the lonely and lofty impulse painted by the Romantics or the plain
problem-solving skills in todays job descriptions. I see it more
as folks at the MacArthur Foundation describe it when discussing what
they hope to encourage with their so-called genius grantsone
of the recipients of which is profiled in this issue.
Creativity, like humor, can get lost in definition, says the
foundations Website, not because it cannot be described, but
because it can be expressed in limitless variations. In this program,
we have found it useful to regard creativity as the expression of human
endeavor as individuals actively make or find something new, or connect
the seemingly unconnected in significant ways. The Fellows Program places
its emphasis on individual creativity because the discoveries, actions
and ideas that shape our society often result from the path-breaking efforts
One of the great values of liberal arts colleges like Pomona, I think,
is that they acquaint us, in our tender years, with those who made contributions
to the world we know, and so they lead us to an understanding that we
have a choice of our own to make. We can leave things as we found them.
Or we can try, at least, to create.
to the Editor
Your recent magazine article about early computers [PCM Fall 2002] recalled
memories of the Clary in the Chem building basement. Although Professor
Donald McIntyre acquired it, we had possession. The first term after its
arrival Professor Nelson Smith gave keys to us senior Chem majors and
promptly doubled the amount of homework in Physical Chemistry, saying
that we would have to learn to use the computer to pass the course. We
did, and Ive been financially assisted by computers since 1975.
The user manual that came with that machine (which had a 10-key
adding machine as the input and a Selectric typewriterthen newas
its output) was useless. So Dr. Smith wrote his own and tested it on his
I do recall that the folks in physics managed to get their Bendix to play
Jim Ludden 61
Dark Side of the Web
While Adam Rogers Wiring the Liberal Arts thoughtfully
included a section entitled The Dark Side of the Web [PCM
Fall 2002], I dont think he touched on the dark side at all. True,
piracy and the like are misuses of the technology that must be brought
to light, but what about the technology, itself, and the nearly invisible
effect it keeps having upon us? Is an inquiry into the presence of technology
worth having, or shall we take it all as a given and only ask ourselves
what bad or good can come about afterwards?
What are the physiological effects, especially on young growing bodies,
of spending hours in a certain position, eyes glued to an artificial light
source? What happens when the computer starts dictating what is possible?
(My daughter, Jerusha Montroy Ogden 02, is known by three distinct
names, but officialdom regularly allows her to use only an initial for
her secondnot merely middlename. Or how about the California
case of the retired professional who went back to school to become a teacher,
but was repeatedly refused his credential because computers are unable
to read his fingerprints?) As Stephen L. Talbott asks in The Future
Does Not Compute, how can we keep our imaginations alive when the
computer, an instrument constrained and defined by the past, keeps projecting
a solely predictable future back upon us?
I have not had a television in my home for many years. People often say
to me, Oh, but there are good things on TV. Or conversely,
they commiserate, Yes, there are bad things on TV. Almost
no one wants to discuss the actual TV. Have we allowed it to become such
a transparent given in our homes that its presence cannot be questioned?
Its not about what is displayed, it is about the display unit, itself,
and the extension this has become of who we are.
I am writing this letter on my trusty computer and I do love watching
the Olympics or enjoying a good comedy show with friends. Technology is
here to stay and theres nothing wrong with any of it. My question
only has to do with scooping up the notion of the dark side at the point
right before we take the machine and our adherence to its dictates for
San Rafael, CA
Still Bearing the Torch
Ive been meaning to get in touch with you for a long time now, but
this morning, after listening to Torchbearers on the CD you
sent me of all of the Pomona College songs, I knew I had to do it today.
You put out an issue of the alumni magazine with a beautiful article on
music. In that article [page 18, PCM Winter 2001], you talked about
Ramsay Harris, my father [a member of the Pomona English faculty who,
in 1930, revised the original Ghost Dance into its current
form as Torchbearers].
He is alive and well and living in Santa Fe, in the La Residencia nursing
home. We just helped him celebrate his 102nd birthday on the 4th of October.
Unfortunately, he is extremely deaf, but is otherwise in very good shape.
He does use a walker, but hes still quite compos mentis.
He often sits in the lobby of the building and greets the people who walk
in, including the staff. They love himas has been true wherever
he has been, he creates a special atmosphere around himselfand he
always makes people feel good about themselves.
Almost every weekend I take him out to lunch or bring him home for dinner.
He loves to watch soccer and football on TV and watch his three great-grandchildren
playing. (They are eight, six and two.)
His older brother, Glen, is also alive and well and is living in Seattle.
Glen will be 104 in March.
What changes they have seen since they left Burma in 1920!
Laura Harris Ware
Santa Fe, NM
My compliments to you and Terry Miura on a stunning cover (not to mention
characteristically absorbing content) [Fall 2002 PCM]. My poor
flatmates alumni magazines (UCLA and Cornell) have no business sharing
the coffee table with this latest edition of PCM.
Alex Jeffers 98
Sontag Still Shines
What a fine piece on Fred Sontag in the Fall issue! During my years at
Pomona, his deep love and grasp of philosophy and his earnest desire to
communicate its insights and challenges to his students shone through
his every lecture. And his warm, personal availability to his students
added quite another remarkable dimension. And from this latest article
one is assured that all this still obtains. He certainly changed my life,
and provides a principal model for my own teaching.
Rev. Robert Hale 59
Justice and Injustice
Congratulations on your Spring 2002 special issue devoted to the theme
of justice. You have done a remarkable service for us all by telling the
personal struggle of Anthony Robinson 83 in the Texas justice system
and his courageous efforts to reclaim his life and to become a public
interest lawyer who advocates for others facing injustice.
James V. Riker 81
Takoma Park, MD
A New President
I enjoy very much the news and articles in the Pomona College Magazine.
Sorry to learn of President Stanleys retirementseems he just
arrived. However, I am sure the Board will bring in another outstanding
Richard N. Strong 54
We welcome letters about Pomona College
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