The world is a complex place: deeply-rooted cultural wars, convoluted political systems, the puzzling global economic machine… so what, on Earth, are we to do with all of this? Fortunately, we have an answer built into our DNA as human beings. Each and every one of us has the capacity within — an inner spark of creative intelligence, which when nurtured can highlight solutions to the issues that surround us. That creative spark — that inherent ability to innovate and create — really is in there and it has been all along.
Can you see the difference between these two images?
Don Hitchcock 2008, Display at le musée de l’ Homme de Néandertal, La Chapelle-aux-Saints
The one on the left is a Neanderthal and the one on the right is a Homo sapien. Neanderthal’s were found buried in pits, lying on their side, and 40,000 year old Homo sapiens were found buried delicately amongst beads and ornaments. When archeologists uncovered this, it was the earliest evidence we’ve seen of human creativity and emotion or even individual identities and symbolic life. Homo sapiens gathered to make things — whether aesthetic or functional — and therefore developed stronger social ties, which led to stronger social cohesion. The neurological makeup of neanderthals didn’t really allow for many of these things, and some scientists believe that’s why they ultimately didn’t survive. They didn’t recognize life’s value or have a perspective of time and it’s consequences. Even though Neanderthals looked stronger and more robust, they lacked endurance and could easily be outrun or outmaneuvered by Homo sapiens.
I know it sounds overly simplistic, but sometimes the most important existential answers are. Homo sapiens cared about making things better. They cared about innovating — that’s why they survived. That’s why we survived. We’ve always been dependent on our own creations.. our brains developed to support higher-order functions like creativity and communication and we’re the only species on earth that’s built to self-reflect. Unlike this guy who shares 99% of our DNA:
When you enable your inner spark of creative intelligence, you unleash what you’re capable of. And we can no longer be afraid of what we’re capable of because we have for far too long. But we know this.
According to a study done by Adobe, 75% of us understand the importance of it, but only 25% of us feel we’re fostering our creativity capacity:
We seem to recognize the need to but, how do we make it happen? Moving forward, we have to become comfortable with repeatedly doing these three things:
We start each day swiping through emails and to do lists. We chase inbox zero and other indicators of productivity, as if they were a purpose unto themselves. In the pursuit of “task completed” we give ourselves such little room to think about the why or the how.. fundamental questions that spur creative discipline. The sheer volume of things we consume is debilitating to our ability to create.
There have been so many great minds who have come to groundbreaking discoveries as a result of intentionally creating space for it to happen.
Einstein’s theory of relativity came to him while he was playing the piano as what he deemed “a cognitive leap”. He genuinely believed that all fundamental new ideas in science can originate only in intuition, and that there is actually no logical way to discover the most profound ideas. He said: “The intellect has little to do on the road to discovery. There comes a leap in consciousness, call it Intuition or what you will, the solution comes to you and you don’t know how or why.”
But now we kind of do know why. A somewhat original idea has to go through several brain states before it surfaces:
Which is why scholars in the world of creativity preach three steps:
You explore, you incubate, and then the sparks fly.
In order to cultivate good ideas that will solve problems and push society forward, it’s imperative we look towards artistic and creative endeavors as the key to developing a greater understanding and producing better solutions. Art isn’t frivolous and it’s purpose isn’t just aesthetic. “Art” is actually defined as “the expression or application of human creative skill and imagination.”
And, if it’s in our bones, truly in our nature, where is the art in our learning? Where is the art in our everyday life?
Alfredo Jaar said: “For me, the world of art and the world of culture is the last remaining space of freedom. This is where I can invent models of thinking about the world — I am free to speculate, I am free to dream a better world and I can only do that within the art world.”
What if we were to fill the world with blank canvases? We need a revolution around creative opportunity. We each have a responsibility to embrace our inner creative, who we really are. We have a responsibility to question, and whether or not we believe we have a responsibility to do, we have the right to move our communities forward. If we fulfill our innate responsibility to develop our own creativity, we’re not only enhancing our ability to enrich our own lives and those around us, we’re embracing the core of what makes us human.
It’s what we are built for; it’s what’s enabled us to survive. Art is one avenue, and there is so much we can learn from actively engaging with images. Einstein was known for using images and finding words later. He knew that thinking began with symbols, with imagination: