Jonah Lehrer at EC Convocation–A Hit

Posted on October 5, 2009 by


By Billie Hirsch


BOSTON, Mass.—Typically Convocation at Emmanuel College means the mandated attendance and near forced purchase of a book by an unknown author, which often serves nicely as a doorstopper. But this year was different.

The successful completion of the Maureen Murphy Wilkens Science Center brought speaker Jonah Lehrer, author of Proust was a Neuroscientist and How we Decide. Mr. Lehrer offered students three pieces of advice; his first was to be an “outsider.” He urged students to look outside the box into the parts of their brain they often would not enter. If a student is a left-sided logical and analytical thinker, they should consult their right-side to attempt to solve problems, and vice versa. He continued on to lead a well-researched and highly engaging discussion on how the two sides of the brain, while commonly assumed to be different and therefore non-interactive, had more to do with each other than imaginable. American society views art and science as mutually exclusive, not complementary. However, left-brained people and right-brained people can collaborate in aiding each other’s dilemmas successfully.

Mr. Lehrer also advised his listeners to “daydream,” to let the mind wander. Our society is so ingrained in new technology, he says, that we find no time to daydream—checking our e-mails or logging onto Facebook five times in one minute. This hyper connectedness and instant gratification prohibits great ideas from filtering through the brain. Lehrer presents the idea that one can have an epiphany, or think of a great new invention, or the answer to an unsolvable question, while in the shower, or lying in bed. Or, doing anything but thinking too hard.

His final piece of advice was for students to “relax.” Students in college have but one priority in life—to learn. Mr. Lehrer admits that he wishes someone told this to him. “Once we get outside of the intellectual box we can finally see what the real problem is,” he said.

The Maureen Murphy Wilkens Science Center, recently completed and now fully accessible to students and faculty, envisions new opportunities, Jonah Lehrer’s presence was one them. “What appropriate timing to have such a prominent scholar in science speak to the Emmanuel community as we open our new Science Center,” Emmanuel College President Sister Janet elatedly announced.

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