I was expecting my first Master’s Tea to be a highly refined sort of deal, a roundtable discussion with tea, crumpets and crustless sandwiches with watercress slightly protruding out the sides. After arriving at the Morse College common room, I realized that there was no round table rimmed with cute porcelain plates, that this was no klatch with traipsing minstrels. It was quite a casual affair, with paper plates for cookies and hot water dispensers to make tea. I plopped down on one of the remaining soft chairs and waited intently for the speaker, Glenn Kelman, to emerge out of some hole in the wall. He arrived, not by crashing through the roof like some god (though I will describe his godlike characteristics later), but by strolling through the glass antechamber.
Glenn Kelman’s company, Redfin, aims to make real estate more transparent to customers, as real estate agents are not always entirely invested in their clients’ interests. Kelman spoke of the cultural divide between local real estate agents and software engineers and the consequent Redfin-driven collision between these two parties. But as he started off his talk, he decided he wasn’t going to make a pitch for his company; rather, he said he was going to focus on saying something that would help us. He regaled us with tales of his self-proclaimed “bizarre” childhood and the two-and-a-half day period when he was forced to choose between medical and business school. He performed his speech with a metrical eloquence and distinct humor.
What resonated with me the most from Kelman’s talk was a specific quote by Edmund Bergler, the ostensible psychoanalyst of modernist poets such as T.S. Eliot and Ezra Pound. “The megalomaniac pleasure of creation,” Bergler says, “produces a type of elation which cannot be compared with that experienced by other mortals.” Kelman told us that he enjoyed creating things, a love of creation universal to the hacker who writes a line of code, the artist who paints a watercolor, the writer who crafts a short story, the researcher who formulates a new idea. For Kelman, Redfin was that creative construct, which he described as moral, soulful and ultimately beautiful.
This creative force, Kelman contended, is not present within the bastions of investment banks and consulting groups. His assertion echoes entreatments by the late Marina Keegan ’12, in her article “Even artichokes have doubts,” for the 25 percent of employed Yale graduates who enter finance and consulting groups to re-evaluate their choices and wonder if their more creative and risky ventures are worth sacrificing.
The “megalomaniac pleasure of creation” evokes images of God-like grandeur. For me, it elicits a line from my high school anthem: “for the splendor of creation that draws us to inquire.” And I inquire this: Do we, as Yale students, have the courage to risk everything we have to take that inspired creative leap, to make the most of our cradle rocking above the abyss and jump, so that one day posterity might marvel and be “drawn to inquire” about our work?
It takes a certain kind of person to want to create and develop something new. These are the hipsters, the iconoclasts, the mavericks. The road is risky; the project must be pursued with more hard work and dogged ferocity than can be imagined. As Kelman noted in his talk, students at Ivy League schools are often trained to be analytical and risk-averse, many opting for professions in medicine, law and finance, clinging to the traditional rungs of social hierarchy. But if we are not the ones willing to innovate, then who is?
Talent and resources abound at our beloved institution. I can think of few places better equipped with the tools to begin engaging students in creative undertakings; we should take advantage of that. More Yalies should indulge in the “megalomaniac pleasure of creation” — Yale is not only the easiest but also the safest place to do so. And more important, I want to see Yalies follow through and take their creative charisma beyond these bright college years.
Jonathon Cai is a freshman in Ezra Stiles College. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.