Wednesday, August 15, 2018

How To Have An Idea

When I was growing up, writing an article was a laborious task. We used electric typewriters that made a loud "clacking" noise and it was virtually impossible to do much more than assemble one's thoughts on index cards and then type them, in linear fashion, paragraph by paragraph.

Today the world of creativity lies at even a child's feet. One need only speak the words, and text magically appears on the screen, ready to be shaped and shuffled at will.

Despite the wide availability of expressive tools, contradictory ("double-bind") messages abound.

Explicitly we are told: "put your thinking caps on," "be creative," "innovate."

Implicitly however, we get the message--particularly at school and at work--that one should not stray beyond the boundaries of "acceptable ideas," and "we all know what those are."

Should we ignore these admonishments, and proceed in ways that challenge the status quo uncomfortably, the "punishments" range in severity and intensity. On the mild side, we may be laughed at: "You can't be serious!" As it gets progressively worse, the creative mind is at turns disparaged, shamed, marginalized, punished, excised, and eventually shunned from the world of "civilized discourse."

Sometimes, worse.

It is for this reason that we must stand together with people who embody creative freedom. This is not to say that we should endorse what it is that they're expressing. It is not even to say that we should include all their creative output in our formal institutional structures (for example, I personally would not include the art of a gifted serial killer in a gallery exhibition).

It is to say that in a world turning duller and duller with conformity, we can find common ground in standing up for the right to simply "think different," as Apple Computer so aptly put it years ago.

We can find common ground in refusing to participate in social discourse that is verbally and at times physically disrespectful, even violent.

We can wonder out loud who benefits when the public falls into falsely polarized black-and-white thinking, and extreme points of view.

We can start to get more concerned than we are about the handful of profit-making companies that can adjudicate and "unperson" us at will: Amazon, Google, Facebook, Twitter, and yes, LinkedIn as well.

To have a real idea, an idea worth having, you must be able to focus in a lucid and sharp manner on whatever it is you care about. But your mind cannot be free to do this when you, personally, are distracted by noise-(literal noise, as in the kind you hear with your ears), or the endless flow of garbage "information" that floods your inbox every day.

Your mind cannot be free to focus on anything if you have no place to sit, and think privately, in peace. We would do well as a society to invest in such places; it is beyond sad that many of us don't even know where the local library is, or why you'd go there.

It goes without saying that we benefit in every kind of way, including financially, from being around creative people. So we must encourage them to be a little bit "crazy," and not just in a token way--like really, leave the Play-doh at home--but in a serious way.

The day we prioritize creativity is the day we turn all corners of this planet into a safe and flowering paradise. We get there by critically reviewing every institution and its operations, asking the question: "Does this place make people free to grow and learn and contribute, or not?"

We get where we need to be as a world by studying the countries and the companies and the schools that generate a maximum return on investment from creativity, and we write down what they do and then we repeat those habits over, and over and over again.

One day, with God's help, we will invent the solutions that permanently end disease, malnutrition, homelessness and more. It will happen because He wills it--speaking through the seeming "brainstorms" of man. By supporting creativity intelligently as a society, we can make this happen faster than anybody ever thought possible.

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Copyright 2018 by Dr. Dannielle Blumenthal. All opinions are the author's own. This post is hereby released into the public domain. Creative Commons photo by turnitsu via Pixabay.