Sculptor Richard Serra gave the 2008 commencement speech at Williams College. I like his comments about thinking, obsession, and play:

If it’s not broken, break it. One way of coming to terms with the prevailing language of a cultural orthodoxy is to reject it. It may be necessary to invent tools and methods about which you know nothing, to act in ways that allow you to utilize the content of your personal experience, to form an obsession and to cut through the weight of your education. Obsession is what it comes down to. It is difficult to think without obsession, and it is impossible to create something without a foundation that is rigorous, incontrovertible, and, in fact, to some degree repetitive. Repetition is the ritual of obsession. Don’t confuse the obsession of repetition with learning by rote. I am suggesting a form of inquiry, a procedure to jumpstart the indecision of beginning.

The solution to a given problem often occurs through repetition, a continual probing. The accumulation of solutions invariably alters the original problem demanding new solutions to a different set of problems. In effect, as solutions evolve, new problems emerge. To persevere and to begin over and over again is to continue the obsession with work. Work comes out of work.

But solutions need not only be the result of constant repetition. There is another route, not so structured but rather free-floating and more experimental but no less obsessive. It is to be found in the activity of play. I cannot overemphasize the importance of play. The freedom of play and its transitional character encourage the suspension of beliefs whereby a shift in direction is possible; play ought to be part of the working process. Free from skepticism and self-criticism play allows you to relinquish control. Playful activity provides an alternative way to see, to imagine, to do, to make, to think otherwise. In play there are no ends, there are only means, however, means inadvertently can lead to ends. Rules can be made up as you go along or even in hindsight.

[via michael surtees]