Creativity, Education and Employment Simplified

If I Need Something, I'll Invent ItI’ve been thinking about creativity and technical stuff for… well, for most of my life. It was a few decades ago that I made peace with the two in the mind of a son of a poet and engineer.

It’s not complicated, but it continues to be unexplained by so many experts that I won’t bother linking them. And it is a real problem, as even NASA scientists have found.

In one paragraph:

Creativity is basically not thinking like other people do. Education systems create standardized ways of thinking.

Right there is the answer. Albert Einstein alluded to it frequently, speaking of levels of thinking that solve problems being different than the level that created them, or about imagination, etc.

So, in an education system – in any system – you see creativity in outliers. People who don’t think like everyone else are considered creative even when they themselves may not consider themselves creative.

And that is where things get complicated. If everyone approaches problems the same way, they are measured the same way in education and employment systems (the two are almost the same these days)… are we surprised that creativity diminishes within the systems?

Maybe the cause of that surprise is the education system. After all, people studying the systems are byproducts of the systems and are using the standardized tools to study things in the hope to find how to become… less standard.

This is why we should laugh at the world more.

Recoloring Society

Snowy Mountains
‘Snowy Mountain’, by Wasfi Ekab, 1992.

People do amazing things with simple items. Take crayons, for example.

The image at top was done with what we consider children’s tools. We send them off to color between the lines in the hope that they’ll be quiet. Maybe hoping that their hand-eye coordination improves as they grow older so that they can stay within the lines – and society likes things that stay in lines. That follows something someone else drew. Whose vision is limited to what is possible within those lines.

Crayon ProgressionIt keeps things safe. Predictable. Unambiguous.

Yet we celebrate those who can do things without lines that we can identify with – we like art we can identify with. With lines. With a framework. A framework we can identify.

Stray too far, and it makes people uncomfortable. Few people like uncomfortable.

People want order. Nice lines of what can be expected.

Everything in it’s place.

Everything explained, even if by a theory incomplete.

The trouble is that we just get the same things when we do the same things. There might be some variance, but it’s the accepted range of things.

Shots from Hottie's Coffee ShopThe only real moves forward humans have made have been when people color outside the lines.

When the crayons are outside of the box, the framework.

When they’re disorganized.

Mixed up.

When the canvas is clear of lines we thought we needed.

A mess of crayons and a blank page is how we let children play.

When did we lose that?

Or do we still have it?

Victims of The Possible.

second babel towerThe sky is the limit, as the saying goes, yet even on the same planet we see different skies.

What surrounds us limits what is possible.

What we view as possible limits us in a very direct way – and indirectly it limits us what we aspire to, what we dream.

We’ve seen it all our lives, we will see it throughout our lives.

If we look carefully, we can see it right now.

Look around you. Look carefully at the walls that secure you, the window placements and what you can see outside of them, assuming you can.

Where you are right now was framed by an architect and built by contractors. What you see right now guides what you think about.

That is the power of building things, that is the implicit limitation.

Steinebach Sieg - Besucherbergwerk Grube Bindweide - Streckenausbau 01Everyone around you is a victim of what they see as possible. Every single person has their own outlook.

Everyone lives in their own cave, as Plato wrote.

We who travel between the caves know this, but what we convey is rarely trusted within the caves of others only because they have grown accustomed to what they think that they can do, what they may be limited by – physically, socially, economically – so they do not trust easily people who fall into their caves.

They are the victims of possibility. And we are the victims of them.

The Creative Space

Tribute to creativityPeople have ideas about creativity and most of them aren’t very creative. Others are creative but impractical. And so here I am, considering how to create my own creative space.

Given the opportunity has finally arisen to do it, I find it a daunting task. Sure, you can design something you like today – but tomorrow it may not be that great. Longevity is an issue.

And then there’s the part of me that also understands that a space by itself doesn’t generate creativity. I’m a big fan of motion, myself – a drive, a walk, a run, a swim, anything where I move around and things, therefore, move around me. A camera is good for that, circling around to get a nice shot… and so it is with writing. So it is with any creativity.

And then we get to the people we surround ourselves with. There are those that stimulate us for short periods, there are those that challenge us and make us grow for longer periods.

So, I have ideas of how I’m going to handle this creative space… and the main idea is not to plan it, and to fumble through it as I go along.

The Framework Escape

Escape to nowhereWhen we read, we enter a world that someone has created and make it our own. It’s not our world. No matter how hard people will themselves into these worlds, no matter how well they think they fit them like gloves, they are not their worlds – they are the worlds of the writer, the one who dared architect a framework of thought that can guide a willing mind into creating images of a world not their own… that may, sometimes, look almost like the world the writer envisioned.

Textbooks are much the same of course, and texts of a more spiritual nature… they are all frameworks. To create a new framework is a daunting task – to try to be original is almost impossible in a world that constantly regurgitates ideas that sell.

Writers, it is rumored, like to eat, and appreciate a roof over their head. Some even say that they appreciate wearing clothing, though no one can seem to agree on what writers should wear – particularly writers. All of these things cost in the framework we all live in, and so there are two main types of writers: Those who are read, and those who aren’t.

To highlight this, please name only one author you do not know.

I rest my case.

And so, to be popular, it’s not unexpected that a writer would copy a framework – and then, it’s not even their framework. In the mind of a software engineer, it’s object re-use – different attributes, but the same object. This is fair game.

Book stores are filled with unoriginal ideas; trust me: I have become more and more disappointed over the years in bookstores as I look for original minds expressing themselves. Of course, I have read tens of thousands of books by now – willingly! – and so it’s harder to read something ‘new’. Once you see that object with all the different attributes, you know underneath it’s the same object.

It gets harder to stretch the mind with new ideas when the same old ones simply change their clothing now and then. Some even change gender – and these days, without intending to offend anyone – there are so many genders. When I grew up there were only 3 around me (most people only recognized 2).

Technology, business… pretty much the same object re-use concept. It’s boring. Everyone is out there building better mousetraps, and yet no one seems to know what to do with all the mice.

In my lifetime, the global population has doubled. This means that the diversity of the planet as far as humans go has risen exponentially. And yet, everyone reads the same books (if they bother), watches the same movies and television shows, listens to the same music…

And in a world of such wealth in diversity, it’s so hard to find originality. It’s out there, of course, but it’s certainly hard to break out of the algorithmic frameworks social media has been building oh so quietly for such a short period of time.