Lawrence Lessig has formally announced his decision to turn his attention to new pursuits: Lawrence Lessig: Required Reading: the next 10 years. Of course those of us who have looked to him for guidance and inspiration are sad to lose his incredible mind, his voice and his energy in the effort to bring copyright's plight to the attention of a broader audience. It is no doubt due in some part to copyright's relative obscurity that things have gotten as out of balance as they now are. And he's right: he has accomplished miraculous things. Whether others will pick up the mantle and be as effective as he was, or perhaps even more effective, only time will tell.
But I for one applaud his measured determination to address himself to new challenges. He said, "I had learned everything I was going to learn about the issues I've been working on ..." There seem to be people who can devote themselves with unflagging energy to the same thing for a lifetime. And then there are others who just can't do that. Are we really made of different cloth in this regard? It's an interesting question, but for those who feel a need, after awhile, to do something new just because it's new, it's almost like a survival imperative. You start to fall apart, mentally, if your brain activity keeps going down the same paths for too long.
Learning new things is one of the greatest joys of life, maybe the greatest joy. We all do it at some level I suppose. Lawrence Lessig is doing it at a very high level. He talked about becoming a beginning again. Zen celebrates the beginner's mind, but once one is as accomplished as Lessig, being a beginner again takes courage. He has always shown himself to have no shortage of that virtue, however.
I loved his references to Al Gore as an inspiration, but in a way, by contrast, Lessig might be saying that Al Gore gave up on the very task that he (Lessig) plans to tackle. Gore seems to have concluded that it is not just difficult, but *impossible* to make some things happen within government, and one might include among the impossibilities, changing that fact itself. Or maybe it's just that Gore felt that in a given amount of time, he was more likely to accomplish what needed to be done with regard to environmental responsibility than what needed to be done to make government more responsive to the public good than it is to moneyed interests on this issue (or any other issue for that matter).
In any event, I wish Lessig unbounded success in his new undertakings. It will make a marvelous story some day, to tell those who never knew him of his life, the times in which he lived, and the things he accomplished. Somebody better get started writing it!