What is Creativity?
Many people may remember that I've said that I keep seeing all of these people talking about the same thing but from different perspectives, often using their own disciplinary language to do so, thus making the average person unaware that there is a massive, societal convergence occurring right now, a meeting of hearts and minds in a seemingly, unknown shared space.
Of course today though, I realize that what all of these people are trying to describe is creativity. More remarkably though is that this phenomenon I just described is actually how creativity works itself, be it within an individual or a collective of people. In effect, for the (individual or collective) mind to try to grasp something it cannot understand (aka the unknown), it virtually walks around the thing in its mind to look at it from all angles and multiple perspectives to try to understand it better (i.e. blind men & the elephant parable). The more one walks around it, the more one broadens their perspective, perception, and awareness of it.
The Meaning of Life is to Make Meaning
What I've just described in itself is something that I've repeatedly called action logics but it's a title which seems to turn people off because the title doesn't make sense to the average person unless they actually understand action logics itself. Yesterday though, I stumbled across a document that blew my mind because it described action logics in a much simpler way. Action logics is about human development, more specifically ego development, and how it relates to making meaning.
Think of this process of making meaning as a way to walk around the edge of something in a circle to try to understand it from multiple perspectives, thus broadening your overall perspective of it. But also realize that the average person in society is only able to walk around less than half the circle. The reason for this is that to understand what you're looking at, these multiple perspectives have to actually combine to make sense of it. But combining perspectives of meaning is no simple task though because walking around half way means beginning to eventually understand the perspective of the person sitting across from you.
This is why you heard me mention paradoxes repeatedly in the past. In effect, once you reach the known midpoint of human (ego) development, you begin to get an inkling of these paradoxes. And the more you traverse past this halfway point, the more these paradoxes increase, getting more complex in nature. Thus the highest stages of making meaning (i.e. a Dalai Lama type mindset), which have an enormous breadth of perspective, perception, and awareness, require the ability to synthesize or integrate massive amounts of complexity into simple clarity. Acquiring this full, 360 degree perspective allows you to understand the full scope and bigger picture of life itself, almost as though you were looking down on it from space as if it were a grand canvas, the social fabric of life.
Making The Passionate Music of Your Life
Now from our individual local perspectives though, it will always seem like we are fully walking around this circle completely. In effect, we all think we know and understand life completely but in actuality we're only seeing a narrow window or perspective of it (which hopefully broadens over time). This is often why the process of walking around this circle is cyclically repeatedly. We don't understand fully on the first pass, so we need repeated passes to understand it further. And this is where the circle becomes the spiral of growth, development, and evolution.
You see if we don't continually broaden our perspective then we become trapped within this cyclic process and our life will begin to feel like a broken record stuck within a groove. Put another way, we don't achieve enough momentum to get over that groove reaching the next one. Therefore, we need to build this momentum of meaning and understanding because to jump (or dance) to the next groove of making meaning requires a leap of logic (that paradox thing again).
Another way of thinking about it is visualizing yourself as a traveller between worlds. To get from one world to the next, you need momentum not only for propulsion to travel but also momentum to generate stability within yourself, your own gyrocompass (sense of direction) if you will, as you traverse between worlds, losing the planetary gravity and stability beneath your feet as you do so. What I've just described is passion (momentum) and purpose (direction) in life.
Narrating The Journey Between Worlds
Now this travelling between worlds is more than just a perfect visualization because it helps us to understand how a world view works, providing a sense of certainty and stability within our lives. Think of it like culture but something that just doesn't apply locally within a specific setting (i.e. a company's culture) but to our entire life, thus determine how we see, understand, and making meaning out of our entire world. But again to evolve our world view, it will require a journey, a transformation, that will feel like our entire old world is collapsing, we're being cast into the void, and we're landing on a completely new world.
This journey, I just described, you may know better as The Hero's Journey by Joseph Campbell. Within this journey, we leave a collapsing Old World, which represents the external world around us, as our old world view begins to break down. We are forced into the Unknown or Limbo which represents the inner journey within ourselves to reconstruct our selves and our meaning (aka our world view). Finally, we return back with our new gifts of knowledge and wisdom into a New World which represents taking our new integrated sense of self back to the external world and living it (versus just talking about it) as our new world view.
Taking this a step further, realize that this heroic journey of transformation is also known as a monomyth because Joseph Campbell noticed it as a universal pattern in all cultures around the world. More importantly though, realize what these myths were and how they helped these cultures. A myth, while not a literal truth, embeds the truths of life within a greater narrative that provides a sense of stability and meaning for people to live by. In other words, myths are world views.
Creatively Travelling Through Time & Space
But the thing to realize about world views though is that everyone sees their life and their world filtered by their own world view. Thus you could have two people standing next to each other but what they are seeing of the world around them could be completely different relative to their own world view. In effect, think of it as though we are all living in parallel universes, all living within the same space but seeing different worlds. Even more so, when an individual broadens their stage of development at understanding meaning and complexity in a higher capacity, it will literally feel like they've stepped into an entirely new world when they make the leap.
It will feel like a new world because things that they never noticed before will suddenly jump out at them in awareness and with a complete sense of clarity. Yet even though these things will be now as plain as day to you, if you try to describe what you're seeing to someone else from a previous world view of meaning, they will look at you as though you are crazy because it seems invisible and incomprehensible to them. Thus even though everything that was previously intangible and invisible to you is now clearly tangible and visible to you, it won't be for others unless they make the leap. In time, you may even disappear off these people's radar, becoming invisible to them, almost as though you have passed on into this other ethereal realm of understanding.
To provide an example of this in our everyday lives, think of people with this creative capacity by another more commonly known name as entrepreneurs. These people often have shifted their perspective of the world around them and are often seeing things that are invisible and intangible to others. To others, it seems like these people are time travellers going into the future, discovering something, and returning it to the present. But that's a relative mistake of perspective. In actuality, these creative people are just seeing the present emerging reality with clarity and have the ability to articulate it to others, thus bringing it back into these other people's world of understanding and language.
Articulating The Flow & Structure of Our Story
This is why I've repeatedly said in the past that creativity is about being an explorer, navigator, and storyteller. It's not enough being divergent and stepping playfully and curiously off the existing normal path of life and conformity. You have to wade into the unknown, immersing yourself within its emergent waters to make sense of it and navigate it. But even then it's not enough because even with a new world of understanding, meaning, and wisdom, you will feel alone on a lost world unless you have the capacity to become a storyteller of your life, articulating its meaning and identity to others.
This is what articulation means. This is what creativity means. It's is a transformative process whereby over time we dig deep down within ourselves, grabbing the tacit, intuitive knowledge that's hidden there, and bring it back to the surface of the world, sharing it as explicit, logical wisdom. In effect, it is a birthing process but one in which we have to let go of and let die old beliefs and identities for a new one to be born as a whole. Thus as we articulate ourselves and embrace change, we never lose ourselves, our sense of identity, but rather become more of who we truly are, healed, whole, and integrated like a phoenix.
This is the paradoxical relationship between flow and structure. In the beginning is just the flow, the chaos if you will. Yet from that flow arises knowledge and understanding. And from the meaning and sense making, we bring order and stability to our world. Yet life is a constant rhythm and breathe, an inhaling and exhaling. If one stops, so too does their life. Thus to sustain life, we need to sustain both flow and structure. Therefore to leap to a broader understanding of life, we must known when to unlearn and let go of the structure we have previously created in our lives to allow us to be reborn and create flow for a new structure, a new home, to live within.
Emergence: The Footprint of Creativity
In closing, everything I have described here is what is required to understand the basics of creativity from a universal perspective because it defies logic itself by allowing us to leap beyond logic. Therefore to truly understand the universal potential of creativity, you actually need to experience it itself, absorbing its tacit knowledge so that you can eventually understand and articulate it explicitly to others in turn. This is wisdom as experiential knowledge.
This is why it has taken me so long to understand what I've been researching and writing for more than a decade was creativity. More than just requiring the time and space to develop, evolve, and broaden my perspective of understanding of its complexity, I actually had to understand what I was looking at through the entire life of my research as a whole. You see initially my research related to organization development then I added personal development then I saw them entwined as human (social) development. But then I saw everything at once so simply and with such clarity.
What I was researching and looking at was the footprints of creativity through the sands of time (which some might grasp if they've read the intro to Reinventing Organizations by Frederic Laloux). I was so excited at the patterns of the footprints emerging, and how they were influencing and changing our world, that until I finally walked in them for a while myself and turned around to marvel at their progression, did I finally wonder and ask myself what was making them.
The Creative Process
Connect. Empower. Inspire.
Below is the creative process which is just a simplified integration of everything I've said above. The mantra of words that describe it were first intuitively written back in 2007, providing little more than personal meaning for my own life's journey but as time progressed, and I saw their pattern emerging within everything I read, I realized their significance for our collective life's journey. Thus realize that what your are reading is the creative process of transformation for both an individual and a collective (organization). This is how we lead others by first leading ourselves. We work at living what we have learnt through play.
Connecting - This is a time of destruction, divergence, of letting go, of dying. It is the end of our old world, an upheaval of everything we know. The world feels like it is shattering beneath our feet, causing a loss of gravity and stability. It causes us to question everything we know, even ourselves and our past. We gather. We converse. We listen, not only to ourselves but to the world around us. It forces us to begin our journey, our exodus from the old world, requiring us to become explorers quickly. We hunt, we seek, we begin to find clues and patterns to something potentially new but there are no clear signs or paths to it. It is but an intuitive feeling at this point, as we collect ourselves and our tools for our journey. Once we intentionally commit to the journey, we suddenly acquire a sense of excitement and playful curiosity at what lies ahead.
Empowering - This is a time of uncertainty as we step off the shores of the old, known world and into the unknown void of space, an eternal limbo that never seems to end. We feel fear because of the loss of identity and no sense of stability. We feel like we are halfway across a bridge that never seems to end. Nevertheless, we slowly begin to make sense of where we are, as we map our journey and continually reflect on our relationships, both with each other and with the world around us. In effect, we begin to see relationships between the patterns, like stars in the sky emerging from the mist and providing a bearing to guide us by. We begin to trust ourselves and feel more courageous, even light hearted at times. We still don't know where we are going but we trust each other and the signs around us that we will get there. But then we see it, the new world from a distance. But the path to it seems impossible. Trust alone, it seems, will not get us there.
Inspiring - While the journey through the unknown was scary enough, the final leap to this New World requires us to go beyond just trust and courage. We must believe in ourselves and the signs we are seeing, no matter how impossible they seem. But we can because through the trial and hardships, in questioning, conversing, trusting, and believing, we now truly love one another and ourselves. We the many, finally become the One. We leap, stepping beyond logic, with an open mind and even more loving heart, and finally converge upon the New World. We are finally at home, not only with regards to the world we have manifested around us but we are finally at home with our individual selves as well. In letting go of our old world and our old selves, we have left behind a world of limitations and stepped into a newer world of unlimited potential and possibilities.
A small footnote providing clarity for inspiration before I say my final goodbye here. The above process is both cyclic and spiral, never ending. Therefore, while inspiration does not directly start your journey, it may be a catalyst that sparks a connection within you about something. Think of it like your mentor on the Hero's Journey, eventually he or she has to let go so that you can complete the journey on your own. This is why inspiration is the final stage of creativity because it is about creating your own inspiration, inspiring yourself to complete your own journey. And just as inspiration is like god's exhaling breath, the exhalation of your creative breath and spirit will be inhaled and inspire others to undergo their own journey, with you as their mentor in turn, thus continuing the creative rhythm and breath of life as a whole.