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Home » Adam Lerner: The Art of Risk at TEDxMileHigh (Full Transcript)

Adam Lerner: The Art of Risk at TEDxMileHigh (Full Transcript)

Adam Lerner – TRANSCRIPT

I’ve spent most of my life striving for recognition, for stature. My father, who was a Holocaust refugee, was focused on other things, and he was focused more on the necessities of life.

You see, you could tell that actually by looking at me as a kid. In wintertime, while other kids were wearing mittens, he gave me to wear these brown gardening gloves that he bought three to a pack. “What? You need such nice gloves?”, he would say.

In summertime, while other kids were wearing tube socks, I was wearing these black nylon socks with my sneakers and my shorts, which is why the kids across the street used to call me Jew Socks. So I spent a lot of time trying to elevate myself beyond the Queens immigrant Jewish family that I grew up in.

I had this image of myself wearing tweed jackets, carrying fountain pens, and discussing great leather-bound books of philosophy and poetry written by old British people. I spent 16 years in higher education at places like Cambridge University and Johns Hopkins University. At Johns Hopkins I studied with the renowned French art historian, Eric Michaud, who spoke as if each word had some some deep philosophical weight to it. I still remember my first seminar with him back in 1991. His first line he said, “Art is our last myth, so that we will not perish of truth.”

I had no idea what it meant. But I had the feeling like it was some invitation to some greater intellectual life. It turns out it was a reference to Nietzsche, and I went to the library, and I read every single book I could from Nietzsche. From morning till night, I would read philosophy, literature, art history. I pursued my graduate studies like I was a medieval monk seeking spiritual enlightenment.

All my graduate school friends were the same way. We all were striving for this kind of intellectual rigor. I remember once I was at the home of my dear friend, Juliet Glass, along with her boyfriend, Jeff, and my wife, then girlfriend, Elisa. We were all graduate school friends, and we were about to go out to dinner, when Juliet’s father, the famous composer Philip Glass, came running excitedly down the stairs, and wanted to know if he could join us, and we said, “Sure.” At dinner, Phil ordered a beer, which I thought was strange, because he never drank, or rarely drank.

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