Creativity of thought and action is something that is regaled in our society. Have you thought about what allows creativity to blossom? Where it comes from? How it is nurtured?
Diane Ackerman is a recognized author of books and essays about the natural world and human nature. In her latest book, One Hundred Names for Love, she has written about her husband’s stroke that robbed him of his ability to speak. They were a couple whose lives centered around language and words. The book shares their journey, and also Diane’s approach, which moved beyond the conventional path followed by others in similar situations. She was forced to employ creativity.
In the throes of creativity, a lively brain tussles with a mass of memories and rich stores of knowledge, attacking them both sub rosa and with the mind wide open. Some it incubates offstage until a fully fledged insight wings into view. The rest it consciously rigs, rotates, kneads, and otherwise plays with until a novel solution emerges. Only by fumbling with countless bits of knowledge, and then ignoring most of it, does a creative mind craft something original. For that, far more than the language areas of the brain are involved. Hand-me-down ideas won’t do. So conventions must be flouted, risks taken, possibilities freely spigoted, ideas elaborated, problems redefined, daydreaming encouraged, curiosity followed down zig-zagging alleyways. Any sort of unconsidered trifle may be fair game. It’s child’s play. Literally. Not a gift given to an elect few, but a widespread, natural, human way of knowing the world. With the best intentions, our schools and society bash most of it out of us. Fortunately, it’s so strong in some of us that it endures. As neuroscientist Floyd Bloom observes: ‘Schools place an overwhelming emphasis on teaching children to solve problems correctly, not creatively. This skewed system dominates our first twenty years of life: tests, grades, college admissions, degrees, and job placements demand and reward targeted logical thinking, factual competence, and language and math skills — all purveys of the left brain.’ (245)
Our children deserve a rich and creative environment. School’s purpose is not to squelch the desire to imagine, play with ideas, learn and question. It is precisely the opposite.
As we begin another school year, our obligation to the children we serve is to allow and further the creative spirit of which Ms. Ackerman speaks – to encourage “a lively brain that tussles with a mass of memories, and rich stores of knowledge.” It is creativity that has led us to places we never thought possible and may take for granted today. And it is creativity that will continue to lead us to solutions of problems that have eluded us so far.