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Courier Article by Sean Davis
Sunday, May 31, 2009

Library Shelves Hold the Key to Human Creativity

Creativity has been mankind's constant companion through the journey to here and now. From their cave-painting past to the digital age, humans have relied on the divine spark to lead the way from many dark places. A glance within may be all that is needed to remember these creative roots.

"Play: How It Shapes the Brain, Opens the Imagination, and Invigorates the Soul" is one such push in the right direction. Dr. Stuart Brown explains to his readers that the act of playing is as integral to the human animal as eating and sleeping.   Through play we not only enjoy pleasurable feelings, but also learn valuable lessons that help guide us through our lives.   Through these simple acts we lose the burdens of our lives for just a moment, and the resulting emptiness is filled with joy and an awareness of the inherent potential in life.

The author argues this act of letting go is as important for adults as it is for children, though sometimes it is not so easy to ignore the feelings of guilt we experience for "wasting time" playing around instead of working.

Best-selling author Gay Hendricks sheds some indirect light on this resistance to play in "The Big Leap: Conquer Your Hidden Fear and Take Life to the Next Level." By studying case-by-case examples of success, Hendrix sees a pattern of attainment of goals followed by a dip in one's positive fortune. He argues we sabotage ourselves by falling prey to several variations that all create the same roadblocks to success.

By engaging our inner genius we can better understand ourselves. Through this reinvention may happen.

One such reinvention happening now is the rebirth of an American institution. "Why GM Matters: Inside the Race to Transform an American Icon" tells the story, past and present, of today's most talked about business, General Motors.

William J. Holstein paints not only a picture of an industrial giant in its bloated, bureaucratic past, but also argues that GM has worked hard in recent years to streamline its operation into one that holds much promise for the near future. He also points to the fact that GM and its suppliers make up 1 percent of our gross domestic product. Perhaps this is why Holstein argues so passionately for the necessity of saving this manufacturing powerhouse.

Necessity is at the heart of "Wired for War: The Robotic Revolution and Conflict in the 21st Century" by P.W. Singer. War has always been an ugly tool societies have either gladly or reluctantly wielded. Singer points to advancements in robotic warfare as a harbinger of an unsettling future. He sees future warfare as a remote activity that will undermine a system of warrior code and put in its place one less morally governed. With these tools of tomorrow, battles can be carried to any corner of the world, including to our front door.

The shrinking of the world is also a byproduct of another innovation. "The Wikipedia Revolution: How a Bunch of Nobodies Created the World's Greatest Encyclopedia" provides the story of how and why one of the Web's most popular sites was born. Andrew Lih shows that through collaboration and humanity's need to create, more than 2 million articles have been written about nearly every subject. As a result, the way we gather, store and approach information has been drastically altered. However, because of a surge in interest, Wikipedia faces a need for change also.

Whether it is problems or play, mankind has all the tools necessary to overcome any obstacle. From saving jobs to saving lives, we have the power to succeed. In order to do this, we must overcome our fears of the unknown and walk our chosen path.

Sean Davis is a readers' advisor in the Reference Services Department at Central Library.