“ What I personally hope doesn’t get lost in all the hand waving is Jonah Lehrer’s body of work. He’s one of the most stunningly original voices I’ve ever encountered. I knew it the moment I first read Proust Was A Neuroscientist. That’s why we’ve had Jonah on the show 17 times, by my count. And that’s why we will have him on again, and again, because he explores and explains with the best of them.”
I don’t intend to cite this quote as a bit of claim chowder, but to illustrate a point.
Lehrer fashioned himself as an ‘explainer,’ a person whom can take complex ideas and boil them down to simple, understandable stories. But not all concepts are simply explained.
Reading Michael Moynihan’s excellently researched piece (which uncovered Lehrer’s fabrications), we’re confronted with the costs of Lehrer’s simple explanations. To illustrate and support his thesis regarding Dylan and creativity he resorted to to out-of-context quote usage and outright fabrication. The facts didn’t fit the neat narrative. The tale was too complex to boil down to a simple ‘turns out.’
Let’s not understand Lehrer’s fall as arrogance, lies, or one man’s mistake. Let’s use this event to remember that some ideas are not simple, are complex, and difficult to grasp. Let’s respect them as such. Reducing them down to sound bites or accepting cheap understanding when it’s offered has a cost. Sometimes – in fact quite often – life isn’t simple and we shouldn’t try to pretend that it is. Doing so keeps us from striving to understand and appreciate complexity.