Snowflake Bentley

I’m reading a book called Brainstorm, which is about productive obsessions – about how to harness, rather than falling victim to, the brain’s capacity to hold on tight to an idea or pursuit.

The book mentions a story I’d forgotten about; that of Wilson Bentley.  Bentley’s lifelong fascination with snowflakes produced a breathtaking body of photomicrographic work.  You can learn more about his work here and if you haven’t seen the Caldecott-winning picture book, Snowflake Bentley, that tells the story, it’s well worth it.

I was happy to be reminded of him, particularly in the context of what I’ve written in my last few posts.  Bentley found (early in his life) a way to put himself to work at something that fascinated him and offered to others a glimpse of the beauty he saw. There are volumes written about finding one’s true passion and most suitable, sustainable path, but they tend to be written for adults.  We think it’s unusual for a person to have the capacity to find, recognize, and pursue at a young age something they’re uniquely qualified and inspired to do, so we set the bar for childhood quite low, and then, of course, only those low bars tend to get met.  Kids have to go out of their way – be willing to fight against the current of mediocrity – to go after anything that might really make use of their capacities. Most of them aren’t willing.  The rare willingness certainly speaks to a depth of commitment, but should kids have to have it?  Shouldn’t we be ready to do anything we can to call forth whatever they’ve got to offer?  And with urgency?