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The insight BEHIND the idea

I had an idea the other day about having ideas.

Conventional wisdom is you discover an insight and it leads you to an idea.

I think that’s often what we tell ourselves after the event.

This came to me in a pretty random way.

I was watching a 1970 interview with Paul Simon on the Dick Cavett Show (as you do in lockdowns).

He was talking about how he came to write the song ‘Mrs. Robinson’, which was used in the 1967 film, The Graduate, with Dustin Hoffman and Anne Bancroft.

In there are a couple of famous lines:

Where have you gone, Joe DiMaggio?

A nation turns its lonely eyes to you

Simon was asked how Joe DiMaggio got in there. DiMaggio was ‘Joltin’ Joe’, the New York Yankees baseball star, who in 1941 had a hitting streak that lasted 56 consecutive games.

He replied: “It’s very pleasurable to write in a stream of consciousness style. And very often you find out what’s in your mind is relevant, although at the moment it doesn’t seem so. And so, while I was writing, I had no idea that I would say that…then I asked myself later what it meant and I said, well it means something, it’ll mean something.”

By 1999, the year DiMaggio died, he’d worked it out.

The lines were a tribute to DiMaggio’s modest heroic stature, at a time when genuine heroes were in short supply.

He went on to say: “In these days of presidential transgressions and apologies and prime-time interviews about private sexual matters, we grieve for Joe DiMaggio and mourn the loss of his grace and dignity, his fierce sense of privacy, his fidelity to the memory of his wife and the power of his silence’”

A timeless insight, it would appear. Born in Paul Simon’s subconscious.

Mind you, his actual favourite baseball player was Mickey Mantle. But that didn’t fit.


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