Creativity with wisdom

Does it matter what we apply our creativity to? I think it does.

The UK educationalist Professor Anna Craft tells us that creativity is not value free. For example, creativity can be used to advance the human condition through the visual arts, music and education; and it can be used for less useful purposes, such as technological advances that support terrorism and war.

As Craft says, we are better off applying our creativity with wisdom, using our creativity to  bring about change that is positive and life affirming. If, for example, we apply our creative energies into generating consumer goods that cannot be recycled or adequately disposed of or repurposed, we ignore the effect that the creation of those goods has on the environment. Inevitably consequences flow from the choices we make.

I was thinking about the question of creativity with wisdom as I watched the TV series on the Great Barrier Reef narrated by Sir David Attenborough. I was reminded of how critical it is that we devise creative solutions for the complex problems presented to us by climate change. Climate change now affects the finely balanced ecosystem of the Great Barrier Reef. This is the largest living structure on the planet. It extends 2,300kms along the northeastern coast of Australia, and is currently suffering severe environmental stress.

In the third episode of the series, Attenborough visited the Australian Institute of Marine Science (AIMS) near Townsville. Biologists at the centre are researching methods to counter the detrimental effects of ocean warming and acidification on the corals. They’re aiming to develop new coral species that are more resilient to changing climatic conditions. These new varieties may survive where older corals now struggle.

In thinking about the work of these scientists I am constantly amazed at how creative they can be. I’m also grateful that there is funding to support these valuable endeavours. In a small way each project works to keep our planet viable. These researchers engage in what Craft calls possibility thinking, asking the ‘what if’ questions, continuing to look at how things are now, and how they might be in the future.

Craft, A. R. (2006). Fostering creativity with wisdom. Cambridge Journal of Education, 36(3), 337-350.

Craft, A. (n.d.).  Possibility thinking

‘Yes, and’ – getting beyond the stuck point

A scientific perspective on getting through creatively from A to B to C

It is so good to hear a scientist like Uri Alon talking about the difficulties of getting from A to B to C when you are researching – finding out about stuff. It’s not a straight forward thing. It’s not linear. It’s not only about being analytical and having all your information in place.

There are points where you get stuck and depressed and don’t know how to get out of the deep deep hole you seem to have dug for yourself. You’ve plummeted down down down the rabbit hole. It’s all gone pear shaped and you can’t find the key to get out of that place you’re so stuck in. (Is that enough metaphors do you think?)

Anyway, Uri Alon, physicist, researcher, academic and improv theatre devotee has some answers about process. He calls the fuzzy, messy space that’s the stuck point, the ‘cloud’. Somehow it’s a bit different to Steve Job’s cloud, but it’s a cloud. More like your everyday, up in the sky on a grey day, misty cloud. It’s a bit foggy and vision is poor. But if you can stick with the uncertainty and get through that cloud – there’s an ‘aha’ moment waiting for you at the end.

Messy research. Messy creativity. Messy life.