Today, some thoughts for Christmas Eve, 1990. The
University of Houston's College of Engineering
presents this series about the machines that make
our civilization run, and the people whose
ingenuity created them.
I finish this 500th episode
of The Engines of Our Ingenuity just
before Christmas Eve, 1990. It is a very special
Christmas for me. By now, this program has changed
my life in unexpected ways. On one level, it's
taken me over. It pushes out an old life and
replaces it with a new one.
But that's only part of the story. It is you who've
wrought the largest changes. I've told 499 stories
about human creativity. I've talked about how it
feels to be the creative person we all want to
become. You've responded by telling me that I must
really be what I talk about. I get calls and
letters from people who want me to do creative
things, to hear their ideas, and to validate their
Of course I'm very far from being the ideal I
celebrate. But you keep saying to me, in odd ways,
"Then become the ideal! Don't stand at the water's
edge. Dive in!" You tell me it's not enough to talk
about creative risk. You tell me I must take those
risks with you.
My first reaction is defensive: "I've done this
much. How much more do you want!" Then I see how
that misses the point. No amount of creativity or
courage could ever be enough, because the process
doesn't end. Creative growth is a long, uphill
road. There's always another hilltop ahead.
You, the inventive listener, make it clear you
don't want to walk that hard road alone if you can
help it. You tell me that you'll hear me if I'm on
the road with you. I have to seek out the same
growth and change that you do, all the time.
For example, when I've talked about minority
inventors, you've asked, "Why are you doing this?
What're your motives?" You've told me that I must
be black -- that I must be female -- that I must
share the problem. Only then will you be convinced.
If I stand outside the people and the risks I talk
about, my voice will give me away.
So I finish my 500th episode both changed and
chastened by a public that will not be fooled.
You've proved to be as realistic as you are
demanding. You know human limitation. But you also
know the human capacity for growth.
In the end, this program has told me what you are.
It sets you up as an example to me. Your message
comes home to me with powerful force this Christmas
Eve. It is not I who call you to your creative
rebirth this night. It is you who call me to mine.
And I am in your debt for that.
I'm John Lienhard, at the University of Houston,
where we're interested in the way inventive minds