"Faith is the bird that feels the light and sings when the dawn is still dark. In effect, the people who change our lives the most begin to sing to us while we are still in darkness. If we listen to their song, we will see the dawning of a new part of ourselves."
Existential Intelligence is the sensitivity and capacity to engage questions about human existence – how we got here, whether we have a purpose, and whether there is meaning in Life. Existential intelligence embraces the exploration of aesthetics, philosophy, religion and values like beauty, truth, and goodness. A strong existential intelligence allows human beings to see their place in the big picture, be it in the classroom, community, world, or universe.
First proposed by Howard Gardner, existential intelligence is one of nine theorized intelligences and is considered to be amoral – that is, it and the other eight categories of human intelligence can be used either constructively or destructively.
Monday, July 19, 2010
Time Magazine and Creativity
I happen to be in my fourth week of a Reading Class (partial fulfillment of the requirements needed to complete a Creativity Coaching Certificate.) The classic books I’ve read so far haven’t grabbed me, but I’ve been at a loss as to why. I thought maybe it was just summertime, or the stress of being on the road with a heavy teaching schedule.
But the Time article included a rather shocking observation concerning my reading material: Not only does the classic creative strategy brainstorming not work, but “according to University of Oklahoma professor Michael Mumford, half of the commonly used techniques intended to spur creativity don’t work, or even have a negative impact. As for most commercially available creativity training, Mumford doesn’t mince words: it’s garbage.”
He added, “Whether for adults or kids, the worst of these programs …pander to an easy, unchallenging notion that all you have to do is let your natural creativity out of its shell.”
Ha! Just as I’ve suspected. Creativity requires intentional effort. It isn’t just going to spring bubbling from my inner well, or burst from the top of my head. Maybe that’s why the books weren’t resonating. The approach was too formulaic. Especially the chapters that proposed methods for tapping the intuitive, serendipitous Self.
It hasn’t been my experience that it’s possible to command serendipity. I may notice intuition at play and practice noticing. I may become better aware of intuitive hits when I get them. But I don’t think calling forth serendipity or intuitive resonance is a command performance.
In defense of the books, which shall remain nameless, each was written more than twenty years ago. As with all things, observations and experience of the creative process continue to evolve. Perhaps those books are losing their relevance. Wouldn’t that be good? It would indicate progress in the field.
The Time article suggested quantifiable activities that have been proven to enhance the quest for your Best Creative Self. Here’s the short list:
1. Never tell someone to be creative or to “think creatively.” Saying it out loud almost always shuts down anything good that was happening. Sort of like demanding great sex instead of letting it unfold. Some things just aren’t available on demand.
2. Quit watching so much TV. Not only does it sap time that could be used creatively, it also saps interest in being creative.
3. Get moving. Every dimension of cognition improves from 30 minutes of aerobic exercise and this is true of creativity, too. The type of exercise doesn’t matter and the boost lasts for at least two hours.
4. Take a break. I wrote about this a few weeks ago. Not happening creatively? Set the project aside for a while and don’t pursue that interest. Your back burner (the unconscious) will busily work on your behalf. Professors who set aside a writing project when they’re stuck get more papers published than those who labor over one precious document.
5. Explore something new. A new cuisine, a new culture? It doesn’t matter. The effect is the same. The curiosity around something new filters into your creative thinking sphere – and heats it up too.
6. Passion, passion, passion. Studies have proved that kids do best when they are encouraged to pursue a passion. Passion gives meaning and substance to existence. Have you got one? If not, maybe this is a good time to start looking.
As for the coursework I am pursuing? I’m going to stick with it. I know I have some strategies that work when my students need help accessing their best creative selves. And I've seen results. Maybe I’ve got a few ideas that will contribute to the field.
I’ll share my strategies next time.