Favourable Mention–Miqedem

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This week’s faourable mention goes to a band that you probably won’t be able to understand. Not because their artistry isn’t clear, but because they sing in Hebrew. Miqedem, the five-piece band from Tel Aviv,  has an enchanting blend of progressive rock and modal middle eastern melodies. I am really enjoying Track 1 title Be’elohim. Here is a description of the band from their Facebook page:

Based out of Tel Aviv-Yafo, Israel, Miqedem’s music reflects the culture of a city caught between worlds. Miqedem’s debut self-titled album is a genre-melding collection of songs taken from the Hebrew Tanach.

Facebook 

Bandcamp

 

Defining Creativity

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Explaining creativity can be a daunting task. Defining a singular word is easy enough–even a hyper-charged word like creativity. The real challenge is sifting through all the preconceived notions of the word and arriving at some common ground. So, to begin,  I would like to define how I understand “creativity.”

In its essence, creativity is the trait or process by which we…wait for it…create. But how do we create? By what inspiration do we create? While the scope of this article is creativity, one must acknowledge the role of the Imagination before being apply to define and understand the role of creativity.

Imagination serves to form images in our mind–to help us move from abstraction to the concrete. If I asked you to explain Courage, your mind would take the abstraction of the word and generate or recall images to help you define courage. You would recall images from media, books, stories, art, and personal experiences that you have stored away in the part of your mind marked “Courage.” Our imaginations generate those images, while our reason or logic organize those images into coherent forms in our minds. In his book Mere Christianity, C.S. Lewis writes this about the interaction between imagination and reason:

“For me, reason is the natural organ of truth; but imagination is the organ of meaning. Imagination, producing new metaphors or revivifying old, is not the cause of truth, but its condition.”

So in order for creativity to function properly, our minds need to be populated with a plethora of images, stories, and experiences that give us a breadth and depth of the complexity of life.

But more about this later. For now, let’s return to the task of defining creativity.

In the words of Rollo May, creativity is the:

“Process of bringing something new into being. Creativity requires passion and commitment. It brings to our awareness what was previously hidden and points to new life. The experience is one of heightened consciousness: ecstasy”  (The Courage to Create).

Linda Naiman, the founder of Creativity at Work, also defines creativity like this:

“Creativity is the act of turning new and imaginative ideas into reality. Creativity is characterized by the ability to perceive the world in new ways, to find hidden patterns, to make connections between seemingly unrelated phenomena, and to generate solutions. Creativity involves two processes: thinking, then producing. If you have ideas but don’t act on them, you are imaginative but not creative.”

You may notice that both authors use the word “process” to help define creativity. They explain creativity as a way of thinking or perceiving or being aware of the surrounding world. While they recognize that creativity is about “creating,” they start by defining creativity more passively. The end product of creativity is the “doing”, but the beginning of creativity is the “receiving”–it is populating the imagination.

If creativity is about creating something novel or unique, one must first understand what has already been created.

I believe people become debilitated when thinking about personal creativity because many of our modern definitions focus only the end product of creating, while overlooking the process of fine tuning our imaginations. We can become so obsessed with being novel or unique that we forget to first be inspired by others who have created something novel or unique. We should find comfort looking to those “creative” giants before use as a way to build our own imaginations and develop a microscopic awareness of the world.

Finding and imitating others’ creativity is an indispensable yet often neglected part of our own creative process.

Quotes about Creativity

 

A Brief History of Creativity

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Imagination. Reason. Creativity. Innovation. All words that are lobbed around as effortlessly as if we had found them on the shoreline of some calm lakeside. We often just as easily sling these stones across the sparkling waters, admiring the skip, skip, skipping until they dribble down to a watery fate. We sense these words are consequential, but it’s easy to get muddled in their meanings and interconnection. While this series of posts will by no means be a comprehensive treatise on imagination and creativity (we can look to the masters for those articles), I will attempt to answer a question that have been niggling at me for the past few weeks: Who is creative? Do we all play a part in creativity? Can innovation inhibit the creative process?

Creativity is without a doubt one of the biggest buzz words of the last 30 years. You can Google questions like “What is creativity” and “Am I creative,” and you will receive hundreds of articles, scholarly and common, many of which are directly connected to business. In fact, much of the writing found on these Google queries often conflate “creativity” and “innovation” to the point that a singular message becomes clear: “Creativity can make you money!” Michael Mumford suggests that “Over the course of the last decade…we seem to have reached a general agreement that creativity involves the production of novel, useful products” (Mumford, 2003).

This understanding of creativity is distinctively different from the ancient view of creativity, especially before the Renaissance. Ancient cultures believed that only true creativity could come from a divine being, drawing heavily from the Judeo-Christian conception of God’s creation of the world. It was believed that humanity was only capable of “discovering” or “imitating” what had already been put in place by the divine. As Plato writes in The Republic, “Will we say, of a painter, that he makes something?”… “Certainly not, he merely imitates (Book X).”

This understanding of creativity dominated Western thought until after the Enlightenment, where creativity was seen less as a divine attribute and more as an attribute of genius. It was around this time that Humanism began to take root in Western thought.

By the late 19th century, creativity was being discussed as less of an imbued trait and more of a process of the human imagination and intellect. As the understanding of creativity shifted away from divine and more towards a personal process, many theories were “created” to distinguish between different aspects of creativity and differing methods to study those aspects.

And in the last 10-15 years, there has been much credence to the empirical study of the processes of creativity. Understandably, the interpretation of these results has led to several possible explanations of the sources and methods of creativity, but it has also lead to great confusion of how to define “creativity.”

So creativity started in the realm of the divine–only to be imitated by humanity–and has been formed into a personal process that has been quantified and subjected to empirical study. So how does this historical understanding help us answer the questions we have in the 21st century? I would suggest that the questions we are asking of creativity haven’t changed, but our definition and approach of creativity have shifted dramatically over the years.

With this mitigated history of creativity, I want to explore the implications of our current understanding of creativity and answer some of the questions which I posed at the beginning of this article. If you have any questions or comments, i would love to hear your thoughts in the comments section.

 

 

FAVOURABLE MENTION: PRESON PHILLIPS

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This week’s favourable mention goes to the music of Preson Phillips. I was recently introduced to their newest album In Our Winters–and have been memorized by songs like Wayfaring Stranger and Lift Up the Gates. Here is a link to the album: https://presonphillips.bandcamp.com/album/in-our-winters

From their website:

Tampa Florida’s Preson Phillips has been called “a refreshing change from mainstream worship music [who’s] songs recall the wide-eyed fervor of the early 70‘s Jesus music artists” ~itunes staff review.

The music that he and the band records has a purpose: to be sung in corporate worship at the church in Tampa, Watermark, of which Preson is the lead pastor. With hymn-like lyrics and songs that are seemingly genre bending and timeless, the story of a world destroyed by sin and being set to rights by a self sacrificing savior ring deafeningly loud and call the listener to ponder their place in the story of Gods world.

With an americana influenced sound ranging from folk to alt/country, newcomers should expect a real, almost personal, connection with the emotions and ancient spirituality of the music of Preson Phillips.

How Stories Change the Brain

This is an article published by Paul Zak in 2013 storytelling-brain-2which details his research about the power that storytelling has on the brain. I have also included a quick video about his findings. This is yet another fascinating development in what we already understand as true: Stories Stick With Us!

How Stories Change the Brain

By Paul J. Zak

Everyone can relate to this story. An innocent treated unfairly, and a protector who seeks to right the wrong—but can only do so by finding the courage to change himself and become a better person.

A recent analysis identifies this “hero’s journey” story as the foundation for more than half of the movies that come out of Hollywood, and countless books of fiction and nonfiction. And, if you take a look, this structure is in the majority of the most-watched TED talks.

Why are we so attracted to stories? My lab has spent the last several years seeking to understand why stories can move us to tears, change our attitudes, opinions and behaviors, and even inspire us—and how stories change our brains, often for the better. Here’s what we’ve learned.

[Continue to Article]

10 Reasons Why Kids Need to Read Non-Disney Fairy Tales

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By Melissa Taylor

Say “fairy tales” and your mind likely flashes to Disney and its animated versions of children’s classics. But old-school fairy tales — stories by authors such as Hans Christian Andersen, Oscar Wilde, Sophie, Comtesse de Ségur, or Andrew Lang — are filled with a richness and complexity that is often missing from their big-screen renderings. Here are ten reasons it’s worth reading the original stories with your young reader.

1. Life Lessons

Remember the line from The Princess Bride: “I do not think it means what you think it means”? Many of the moral lessons in the original stories are quite different from the Disney versions. Hans Christian Andersen didn’t write “The Little Mermaid” to teach us how to marry a prince, but to warn us that our actions have consequences. As Johann Christoph Friedrich von Schiller explained, “Deeper meaning resides in the fairytales told me in my childhood than in any truth that is taught in life.”

2. Hope

Many fairy tales offer hope — hope of redemption, hope that good can conquer evil, hope that our enemies will be vanquished. G.K. Chesterton said it best, “Fairy tales do not tell children the dragons exist. Children already know that dragons exist. Fairy tales tell children the dragons can be killed.”

 Read the Rest of the Article

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