Some observers (including yours truly) reacted with consternation when Elon Musk smoked a doobie with Joe Rogan during a 2.5 hour podcast last week. Words like “bizarre” and “irrational” have been used to describe Musk’s behavior recently. Some question his fitness to run Tesla and the other corporations he has founded, like SpaceX and The Boring Company.
Neil deGrasse Tyson, the famous astrophysicist and author, has some thoughts on the matter. During an on-street interview with celebrity news channel TMZ, Tyson said, “Leave the man alone. Let him get high if he wants to get high.” (Note that Musk didn’t really get high in that interview and seemingly didn’t even inhale.) He then went on to compare Musk to serial genius, inventor, and entrepreneur Thomas Edison. Get off his back and let him breathe a little, he suggested.
In a subsequent interview with CNBC, Tyson said he is a committed member of “Team Elon.” He added, Musk “needs to comply with the SEC. He’s got a publicly traded company; he’s got to obey, otherwise there’s consequences. Beyond that, you know, let the man be an individual.”
Quirkiness and greatness often go hand in hand, Tyson suggested. “I went to a highly, really selective college (Harvard) where people were really smart and really weird, and the weirdness became an element of their behavior that I just came to expect with people who had sort of singular abilities to think or to innovate or to project what a future might be,” Tyson told CNBC.
Quirkiness is certainly a Musk hallmark. His vehicles have volume controls that go to 11 — an homage to a scene in a seriously quirky movie called This Is Spinal Tap. The names for the high-performance modes in various Tesla automobiles — Insane mode and Ludicrous mode — are taken straight from Space Balls, the Mel Brooks spoof of Star Wars. Musk has hinted that when the Roadster 2.0 is released, it will have an ultra-high-performance mode known as Maximum Plaid, another allusion to a line in Space Balls.
Recently, Ariana Huffington tweeted a plea to Elon that he slow down and get more rest, to which Musk replied, “You think this is an option. It is not.”
Adherents of eastern thought from Tao to Tai Chi preach the need to lead a life in balance. There seems to be precious little balance in Musk’s life at present, a situation that troubles many observers. Some see thumbing their nose at stress as a source of pride, thinking the rules that apply to mere mortals don’t apply to them. But stress is cumulative. It builds up and builds up until it gets released, often in socially inappropriate ways.
Can Musk continue to operate effectively while carrying the burdens he has so willingly placed on his own shoulders? “We’ll see,” said the Zen master.
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