A fascinating comment by a very individual mind on exactly that, individuality and its creative capacity. While I believe also in the power of combined minds, and don’t agree with Steinbeck’s ‘the only creative thing our species has’, I do believe that such creative teams work best (or at least yield most) when peppered with minds strong on individuality. The challenge of ‘herding cats’ may be more worthwhile than fostering a perhaps more manageable collective herd mentality.

Vital as they are, I believe we may overemphasize team work and being a team player, potentially at the expense of encouraging people to develop their individuality and be happy in their own company (which doesn’t have to mean you can’t get along with others). This is an angle of diversity which isn’t as much discussed as racial, gender or other more readily identified and measured versions.

We need robustly, even annoyingly, independent minds if we’re to navigate the next few decades safely.¬†And Christian or not, I cherish deeply the preciousness of the individual soul.

The quotation is from a letter Steinbeck wrote to John O’Hara – welcome your reactions to his powerful statement.

‘I think I believe one thing powerfully – that the only creative thing our species has is the individual lonely mind … The group ungoverned by individual thinking is a horrible destructive principle. The great change in the last 2,000 years was the Christian idea that the individual soul was very precious.’


Source: John Steinbeck, A Russian Journal, with photographs by Robert Capa (Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1999 (1948)), p. xxv

Photo credit: Tess at unsplash


Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Pin It on Pinterest