Sometimes I wonder whether the hippies have got it sussed (or if at least they are part way there to a deeper understanding). The other night I was participating in my yoga class, as I do every week (bear with me!). This particular type of yoga is less about attempting ridiculous postures that no-one in their right mind should ever be able to do, and focusses more on the nature of human existence within a more ‘spiritual’ context. In that particular session our teacher began discussing what it is to be an individual in an interconnected world. He likened us to single waves that belong to a deeper ocean. In essence we are all connected to the source of our life (the earth) and also to each other. Therefore nothing that we do is ever in isolation.
I have to admit that the ocean metaphor struck a chord and started me thinking about my research and whether using the similar but more dynamic analogy of Gaia theory is a useful approach to understanding creativity. Coined by James Lovelock and Lynn Margulis in the 1970s, this approach is the holistic idea that the earth is an integrated whole and is a complex and dynamic system that self-regulates through a biofeedback mechanism. Before I continue, I am in no way suggesting that I am an advocate of the Gaia hypothesis; my own academic training limits my ability to comment on the scientific validity of such a theory. However, I do think it has potential as a useful analogy for a discussion of creativity. Just as in the Gaia hypothesis sees the earth as a web of interrelated systems, we can also begin to think of the cultures and societies in which creativity manifests as complex and dynamic structures that are linked to a larger overall system (mankind).
Einstein famously quoted that the secret to creativity is to hide your sources. Being creative therefore is integrating existing ideas in a novel or original way. In other words, just like being a wave that is connected to larger body of water, creativity is the act of tapping into a fluid resource of information that resides within a given social environment, but it is also part of that resource, adding new information and ideas to the pool. In light of this analogy, new questions are brought to the forefront of my mind. Does the creativity that emerges within such complicated networks regulate and change social structures? How far does this go; does the action of an individual start off a rippling effect that eventually changes the whole ocean? What enables one person to be ‘more’ creative than another? Whatever the answers may be, I certainly feel out of my depth! Such questions, without any concrete answers as of yet, lead me to believe that there are perhaps boundless facets to creativity. It appears that to be creative is to be connected; to a community, to a culture, perhaps even to the entire world. However, I would argue that researchers of the field have only just begun to scratch the surface when it comes to a holistic understanding of creativity, and my research is just a drop in a vast sea of knowledge.