Tuesday, October 05, 2004

The spark

I know nothing save things the birds have lost,
the sea I left behind, or my sister crying.
Why is the abundance of places?
Why does day lock with day?
Why the dark night swilling round in our mouths?
And why the dead?

: Excerpt from 'There is no forgetting' by Pablo Neruda

"Cogito, ergo sum" - I think, therefore, I am.

: Rene Descartes.

Creativity, for the sake of simplicity, could be defined as a coming together of hitherto unrelated truths to arrive at a new one.

To pick the simplest of examples, then, depicting bereavement (#1 truth) as falling leaves during autumn (#2 truth) is a poetic instance of creativity.

This new created form also need not be just be a manifestation of one aspect of the many traits of human behaviour. So a poem which stirs our emotions is just as creative an endeavour as Einstein's theory about frames of reference. Allowing for certain exceptions, a creative idea is not something you & I did not know or could not have arrived at ourselves; rather, it is something we did not think about in a certain way.

To my mind, there are at least two discernible factors that contribute, at the level of the individual, to creativity:

To connect hitherto unconnected truths, first of all, one needs to know the truths. An obvious extrapolation of this is a will to assimilate these truths. The more the channels of information, the more the propensity of utilizing this will to its potential. And in the world that we live in today, there is no dearth of these channels. So the limiting factor, in a lot of cases, is the will. We must realize that knowledge is an investment worth making and that it need not necessarily be connected to tangible, commercial gains in the short run. To nurture our creative selves, we must feed it knowledge, as extensive and as diverse as possible.

The second aspect of this matter is to arrive at the new truth using the gamut of truths one has assembled. Obviously, one does not know of a selection criteria which will guide us in choosing certain truths over others which, by our definition at the beginning of this post, will combine into a new creative truth. For the simplification of matters therefore,

Creativity = a particular permutation of the set of all truths known to an individual

How does one, then, arrive at this particular permutation?

To my mind, there are no definite answers to that question. Deviating from the topic for a moment, if we choose to look at the more limited domain of problem solving, we will realize that, in this case, we have an idea of what the left hand of the creativity equation looks like i.e. what is the solution or the 'creative truth' we wish to arrive at. Obviously, creativity, per se, is much broader an idea than problem solving. But if it is possible to channelize ones creative ideas toward a goal, however broad, it at least gives us a some kind of a workable space.

Secondly, the brain is at its thinking best at certain times. And these times are not one of anger, anxiety or tension, in general. Observing closer still, we can deduce what are really the 'creative times' for each one of us? Is it music, or relaxing walks, or wide open spaces that brings our brains to that optimal state for connecting diverse truths giving rise to a new one?

And ultimately, we need the creative attitude of curiosity, of seeking.

"Look upon the evening as the death of the day; and upon the morning as the birth of all things. Let every moment renew your vision. The wise man is he who constantly wonders afresh."

-Andre Gide

Also, creativity is an aspect of our lives each day. We assimilate and connect truths all the time, a lot of times without really knowing it. Pablo Neruda got a Nobel prize for being creative, but if you can make that child smile..... thats not bad at all!

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