Descartes takes his date, Jeanne, to a posh restaurant for her birthday. The waiter hands them the wine list, and Jeanne asks to order the most expensive bottle on the list. “I think not!” exclaims an indignant Descartes, and *POOF* he disappears.
“What is the meaning of life?”
Many people have spent a lot of time on the answer to that question. But maybe the answer lies in the question itself?
Our ability to reach out that far within our own minds and ask a question that big is telling, in many ways. Our need to know the answer can be seen as our purpose. Our need to answer every question in our lives could possibly be the only force that drives us. We are all involved, whether we know it or not, in the progression of our world at many levels. Every life is a small part of a bigger organism. The moment we came into existence we all automatically joined humanity. Our participation however small is relevant and part of the endless tapestry of life in the world. It’s important to realize that the fact that we have a pulse is the only proof necessary to understand that we have a purpose. And our creativity is the tool we use to exorcise that purpose. I believe the terms “creativity” and “problem solving” are interchangeable.
When we open a puzzle box and empty it out onto the table we are looking at a problem to solve. It was easy to create this problem. You simply needed to overturn the box. The piece’s scatter across the table in all directions. Pieces fall at all angles and many land upsides down. Yet, every piece has its place. We know this because we can see the solution in the image on the cover of the box. We realize that it will take time to find matching pieces and strategically place them near each other until that portion of the puzzle is solved. We are not discouraged because we are sure there is a solution. Every piece has a place. The world is full of problems, very complicated problems that require that same amount of undiscouraged determination. Man made problems caused without consideration of consequence. We don’t have the advantage of knowing what the solution looks like. There is no art on the box. But we do have the ability within all of us to find it. Once we get to work the solution will begin to reveal itself.
We also have much smaller problems, run of the mill problems that need to be solved at home or work. There is virtually no moment in your waking life where you are not taking note of any given situation, evaluating it and forming an opinion as to how to react or not react. It’s important to be aware of those moments. We are in a constant state of problem solving. If problem solving was an Olympic event, we would all be fit for the tournament. So our lack of creative capacity or in terms of this idea, our lack of being good problem solvers does not come from a lack of ability. It comes from a lack of will. Or simply put, it comes from a fear of failure.
We all have the potential to become better problem solvers. And it all starts with understanding the power and potential of our creativity and having the courage to follow it.
We have been living for a long time with a kind of creative apathy. We take our amazing ability, to see, evaluate, react and execute solutions, for granted. If a turning point is encouraged in our perception of creativity and enough of us champion the cause and become better problem solvers at work, life, and love, then maybe it could cause a kind of paradigm shift in the way we react to problems globally. It could create a shift needed to build a better world for our children and our children’s children.
In the prologue of Henry V, Shakespeare poetically asks his audience a favor. He asks them to suspend their belief for a moment. He is about to tell an epic story set in fifteenth century England of a young king who lays claim to certain parts of France based on his distant lineage. This leads to a war between two great kingdoms. He laments on how could the humble makings of a small wooden stage, a handful of actors and stagehands produce such a massive story? Aside from some very creative artistry, you could imagine that “special effects” were very limited in the 1600’s. Shakespeare struggled with this obstacle. How could he start his play with his audience primed for the story? How could he avoid the initial uphill battle of believability? He came to the conclusion that he would simply ask a favor. He asks… “Think when we talk of horses, that you see them printing their proud hoofs i’ the receiving earth; For ’tis your thoughts that now must deck our kings, carry them here and there; jumping o’er times, turning the accomplishment of many years into an hour-glass…”
Shakespeare humbly requested that we delve deeper into our imagination. Don’t let yourself be stifled. Don’t limit yourself to accepted norms or let perceived reality stand in the way of your vision. Shakespeare was challenging the internal skeptic within all of us, encouraging us to allow ourselves to see with our minds eye a scope of possibility beyond the meager visage of what was before us. He asks this because he knew that people allow themselves to be stifled and distracted from seeing possibility.
Understanding creativity requires an acceptance of possibility. We all have our own perceptions of our own creative capacity and judge our potential on what we have done so far and place judgment on the result of our past efforts.
I would like to take a note from Shakespeare and call for a muse of fire that might inspire you to not judge creativity on the results of it’s process. But instead to take note of the capacity of the process undiscovered.