The creative jungle
“For as long as I can remember — and certainly long before I had the term for it — I’ve believed that creativity is combinatorial: Alive and awake to the world, we amass a collection of cross-disciplinary building blocks — knowledge, memories, bits of information, sparks of inspiration, and other existing ideas — that we then combine and recombine, mostly subconsciously into something “new”. From this vast and cross-disciplinary mental pool of resources beckons the infrastructure of what we call our “own original” ideas.”
Maria Popova. ¹
The idea of random combinatorial creation was actually enunciated by Albert Einstein (1879-1955).
“Combinatory play seems to be the essential feature in productive thought.”
He also introduced the idea that creative thinking can be done with your body as well as with your mind.
For Einstein, insight did not come from logic or mathematics. It came, as it does for artists, from intuition and inspiration. As he told one friend:
“When I examine myself and my methods of thought, I come close to the conclusion that the gift of imagination has meant more to me than any talent for absorbing absolute knowledge.” Elaborating, he added, “All great achievements of science must start from intuitive knowledge. I believe in intuition and inspiration…. At times I feel certain I am right while not knowing the reason.”
Einstein only employed words or other symbols (presumably mathematical) — in what he explicitly called a secondary translation step — after he was able to solve his problems through the formal manipulation of internally imagined images, feelings, and architectures.
“I very rarely think in words at all. A thought comes, and I may try to express it in words afterwards,”
“The words of the language, as they are written or spoken, do not seem to play any role in my mechanism of thought. The psychical entities which seem to serve as elements in thought are certain signs and more or less clear images which can be ‘voluntarily’ reproduced and combined…. The above mentioned elements are, in my case of visual and some of a muscular type…. Conventional words or other signs [presumably mathematical ones] have to be sought for laboriously only in a secondary stage, when the associative play already referred to is sufficiently established and can be reproduced at will”
In other interviews, he attributed his scientific insight and intuition mainly to music.
“If I were not a physicist, I would probably be a musician. I often think in music. I live my daydreams in music. I see my life in terms of music…. I get most joy in life out of music”.
His son, Hans, amplified what Einstein meant by recounting that
“Whenever he felt that he had come to the end of the road or into a difficult situation in his work, he would take refuge in music, and that would usually resolve all his difficulties”.
After playing piano, his sister Maja said, he would get up saying: “There, now I’ve got it”. Something in the music would guide his thoughts in new and creative directions. ²
Actually, Einstein’s pattern of productive thinking and creating belongs to what we call a musical intelligence, or musical mind, but we could use the same approach for the process of creativity of different types of intelligence, including all senses and body functions and also mathematical and logical insights.
Nevertheless, according to Arthur Koestler (1905-1983), there is a distinction between the routine skills thinking that can be seen as a single plane or line of ideas and the creative act, when the multifaceted mind passes through a transitory state of unstable equilibrium where the balance of both emotion and thought is disturbed, giving rise to the combination of elements that don’t ordinarily belong together in a common sense.
“The discoveries of yesterday are the truisms of tomorrow, because we can add to our knowledge but cannot subtract from it. When two frames of reference have both become integrated into one it becomes difficult to imagine that previously they existed separately. The synthesis looks deceptively self-evident, and does not betray the imaginative effort needed to put its component parts together. In this respect the artist gets a better deal than the scientist. The changes of style in the representative arts, the discoveries which altered our frames of perception, stand out as great landmarks for all to see. The true creativity of the innovator in the arts is more dramatically evident and more easily distinguished from the routine of the mere practitioner than in the sciences, because art (and humor) operate primarily through the transitory juxtaposition of matrices, whereas science achieves their permanent integration into a a cumulative and hierarchic order.”
“The re-structuring of mental organization effected by the new discovery implies that the creative act has a revolutionary or destructive side.”
“The skills of reasoning rely on habit, governed by well-established rules of the game; the ‘reasonable person’ — used as a standard norm in English common law — is level-headed instead of multi-level-headed; adaptive and not destructive; an enlightened conservative, not a revolutionary; willing to learn under proper guidance, but unable to be guided by his dreams.”
Then, it seems patent that all creative process implies stages of destruction and a new construction.
From here also comes the principle of sharing and generosity. Your ideas, your words, your experiences are not a private property that must be hardly safeguarded from others’ usage. They are already the product of the collective creation. You are already borrowing pieces of information and putting them together in a new combination, that is peculiar and unique, just as you, and only you could give it this singular conformation, but it is not strictly yours, it belongs to the collectivity again, once it was released. It will be dismembered , absorbed, processed and used for the creation of new things.
In a world structured upon copyright laws, but shaken by the rapid dissemination of information through the World Wide Web, the walls of intellectual property are mixed and tend to crumble down.
Providing the means for ensuring financial support for scientists, writers, artists, musicians who solely live from their creative productions and do not offer a direct or explicit service to the community is still a challenge that is being slowly solved by the new generations.
In my point of view, the changes are for the better and the sharing of knowledge and the expansion of the creative process for the entire community tend to be very positive.
Welcome to the jungle, we are all interconnected, ready to be shattered and replaced, eager to destroy and rebuild.
Once the sand mandala is completed, it must be dissolved, to give rise to a new work of creation.
“A mandala is a deeply profound, universal symbol that translates literally to mean the “center and its surroundings” and is a physical representation of the universe and the interdependence within the universe. These sand mandalas take days for monks to create yet are dissolved in minutes and this dissolution epitomizes impermanence.”
2- Michele and Robert Root- Bernstein – https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/imagine/201003/einstein-creative-thinking-music-and-the-intuitive-art-scientific-imagination