oranje - recent posts from my current home

Wednesday, June 21, 2006


With all of the time I spent over the last two weeks working at the festival, I haven't had a moment to really comment on some of the things I've been reading lately. The Friday Roundup post on Artblog was particularly interesting. I know the post is over a week old, but it was one of the ones I kept going back to.

Franklin Einspruch had posted This rather harsh essay on creativity is worth having a look at, whether you agree with the larger points or not. The essay, written by Steven Dutch, purports to examine anti-intellectualism but seems to address the mechanisms of creativity with some pretty sound observations.

Now we can address the contention that children are innately curious. They are not in the sense used here - they are tinkerers. The commonplace observation that children have short attention spans is direct refutation of the notion that they are creative and curious in any deep sense. The tragedy of our society is not that so many people outgrow their childlike curiosity, but that so few do. The adult equivalent of childlike curiosity is channel surfing and the ten-second sound bite.

Mozart was one of the most creative individuals who ever lived. I have a record of his greatest hits and the striking thing is that all the pieces are completely different. Mozart composed music at age three, but none of his juvenile pieces are played today except as musical curiosities. His juvenile pieces are variations on existing patterns. As a child, he was a tinkerer. A very bright one, to be sure - he was Mozart after all - but still only a tinkerer. His adult creativity vastly exceeded his creativity as a child, and even as an adult, his last few years vastly outshone his earlier period. We also should note that his childhood achievements were hyped, and in some cases assisted, by his father.

Most of what passes for "creativity" in children is actually ultra-linear thinking. It seems creative only because it's incongruous, and it's incongruous because it's so literal that not even the dullest adult would reason that way. The old joke about a child who asks his pregnant mother why, if she loves the new baby, she ate it is a perfect illustration.
Another point that he raised that I found interesting is the myths surrounding human nature and creativity. It seems that we tell ourselves that we, as a race, are creative and inquisitve beings and that it is our nature to explore. There are, in fact, very few historical instances that support this preconception. I'm not saying that there aren't instancs of exploration and creativity but that these do not appear to be the norm. If you have worked with children, you have probably encountered some of the same issues regarding the inquisitive spirit. Children are only inquisitive under certain controlled situations. When a majority of individuals are engaged in inquisitive behavior, for instance. A child will only explore when the child believes that the environment is within the scope approved by their caregivers. The juxtaposition of disparate elements that most adults find so charming in children is due only to the tinkering impulse and to naive reasoning. True creativity involves reason and discipline. It is not just a spurious assembly of objects and ideas but sophisticated play, where play is directed and honed by adult priorities.

I found this article and some of the others on Steven Dutch's site to be, at the least, an interesting read.

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