The Amateur


are you paying attention?

I am about half way through Einstein, by Walter Isaacson.

It is a wonderful book.

That Einstein was a genius who changed the way we see the universe, I don’t have to explain.

What is interesting is that Einstein produced his most powerful and significant work in 1905, what Isaacson refers to as ‘the miracle year’.

In that year, Einstein wrote and published seminal papers on Light, Quantum Physics, Brownian Motion, and to top it all off, the Theory of Relativity.

What makes this achievement really impressive is that he did it at a time when the leaders in the field of physics had declared that “There is nothing new to be discovered in physics now. All that remains is more and more precise measurements” – Lord Kelvin.

What makes the achievement truly remarkable is that when Einstein published his four papers he was not a Professor of Physics. He did not yet even have his PhD in physics. He was not associated with any university or any school of any kind. He was working as a third level reviewer in the Swiss Patent Office.

He was the consumate “amateur”.

Of course, he would go on to receive his PhD, appointments to the most prestigious universities in Europe and rise to the very pinnacle of the world of physics. But not then. Then he was an amateur.

Amateur, from the latin root Amat – one who does something solely out of love for the work.

Einstein was able to engage in theoretical physics because he did his experiments in his head. He did not need a laboratory to work. His desk at the patent office gave a view of the main clock in Zurich and the railway station, and this was, to some extent, enough.

Up until very recently, it was virtually impossible for amateurs of any stripe to engage in the production of television.

The cameras were far too expensive for the average person to buy, simply because they had a passion for the work. The editing systems were far too complex.

Now, suddenly, and for the first time, television is open to the amateur.

The person who engages in the art simply for the love of how it works and how it looks.

For centuries, writing, painting, music composition… all the plastic arts (and apparently theoretical physics (!)), were open to the amateur. Anyone could try. You got lots of disasters, but every once in a while, you got a Picasso.. or an Einstein.

Now television has been opened to the ‘amateur’ as well.

It will make it a very different field.

Places like What’s Your Trip,, and The Travel Channel Academy, are designed specifically as platforms for this emerging creative group. They are places to publish… and to receive feedback, but mostly as platforms to show new work.

Will we find the next Einstein?

I doubt it.

Will we find the next Picasso?

I hope so.

Will we find the next Michael Murphy?

I think the question really is, will he find us.


4 responses to “The Amateur

  1. Once again, what form did this wonderful experience and insight come from? The Internet?

    A lone person working alone to create a final product that ended up in your hands and your mind?

    It was a book. The simple printing press used to convey the message and experience to you. A method so powerful, and so “old technology” that you could not help but write about it here.

    Good for you!

    See, there is something to be said for the “old way” even if it doesn’t meet your new tech desires and beliefs.

  2. I have a great passion for books.. and I write with a fountain pen. New technologies don’t obviate the old, but they certainly can marginalize them.

  3. Can but don’t necessarily “do” marginalize them.

    Books and the written word being a case in point.

  4. Im happy

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