"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."

Rabindranth Tagore

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.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Creative Problem Solving

A friend wrote today and noted wryly the distraction her studio work had become. She initiated her post by stating that she intends to make art the rest of her life, but qualified her intent by recognizing a perceived need for balance. Can you relate?

I laughed out loud when she described her garden - overrun by Queen Anne’s Lace (one of my personal favorites, so I saw this as positive) and thistle gone to seed. “There I was,” she wrote, “standing in a thistle patch with the shop vac, trying to suck up the seeds from the vegetation and ground. It looked like a cottonwood grove down there. But how whacko is that - an aging (well, probably little old) lady vacuuming her YARD? Yikes.”

Oh, I don’t know. Sounds like creative problem solving to me. I once used a shop vac to remove a dead rat (or what was left of it) from my hot tub. That was memorable.

Thinking about this led to a few other creative problem solving efforts I’ve witnessed lately. For instance, I took a tamale pot to my fabricator guy last week, and asked him to make a stainless steel chimney for it. I wanted a taller, bigger chimney than my current version, so we could steam longer, wider lengths of cloth in my next workshop. The next day he produced a new and improved stainless steel model with a flared edge. Now the stack sits on the pot, instead of inside it. His innovation added height to the steamer and expanded my steaming horizons exponentially. He grinned from ear to ear. Then he suggested we go into business together.

Even the cats I know have been problem solving this summer. Dexter, a yellow tabby with a mischievous personality and a heart a mile wide, went to live with a friend last April, when it was obvious he needed people. I was on the road more than either of us liked. His new hostess, Leila, wrote to me recently. She’d gotten Dexter a harness, because he longed to be outdoors, but the coyotes unnerved her.

Dexter proceeded to escape from the harness every time she put him in the yard. Mystified, Leila determined to disarm his trick. Prepared with a magazine and a cool drink, she stretched out in a lounge on the deck, ignoring Dexter, who lolled in the harness a few feet away.

Leila peered over the top of The New Yorker magazine. Dexter had forgotten about her, and was busily licking the fur on his right shoulder. When it was sufficiently damp, he switched to his left shoulder. In no time at all his fur gleamed with cat spit, allowing him to wriggle free of the harness. He sprang to the deck, and then to her lap, where he purred with yellow cat pride.

A brilliant cat move on his part. Creative problem solving at its best.

I take heart in stories that underscore one tenet of my life as an artist.
It isn’t always about creativity in the studio.

I guess I could be a monastic and make art alone - without friends or animals to distract. Carole could allow her garden to wither. We could sell our possessions and forsake the assorted pleasantries of life. But maybe seeking balance is part of the creative repertoire. Solving any problem creatively, no matter how small or insignificant, carries a reward that makes it worth it. It all adds up. I had a boyfriend once, who said his real goal was to be a hermit and play the trumpet up on the mountain all by himself while he meditated on the world and wished it peace. All I can say is that I think it's more admirable to stay in the trenches, spreading the good news of creative problem solving around right here, where we can use it. If it's good enough for the Dalai Lama and Jesus Christ, it's good enough for me.

And worthy food for thought when you’re on the road and the studio is a thousand miles away. It’s one of those circles of Life. Days unfold and then bingo - it will be back to the studio for me. And I'll have as much alone time as I can muster.

In the meantime, all I need to do is figure out how to teach twenty people to screen print on low tables where the wash-out is limited to three sinks and inadequate hot water.

No problem. We’re glad we came. And twenty-one heads are always better than one.


  1. Jane, thanks for a lovely post . . . it is fitting for our week, though we are doing pretty well given the challenges we've had so far! The good news is how much space we have to spread out - an unexpected treat for sure. Looking forward to the rest of the week and continued inspiration, guidance and FUN. Onward!

  2. I took a screen printing class like that at a hotel. We used heating blankets to batch the fabric we printed, washed fabric out in the bathtubs of our rooms and were basically committed to doing a proper wash out once we got home.

    Worked out okay, everyone had an awesome time. We were together, making art and that made everything else pale in comparison.

  3. sounds like learning to dye at the old QSDS, in the basement of the Josephinium -- no hot water; heck, we even had to carry to COLD water in from the other side of the building in buckets.

  4. I try to remember that "balance" does not mean everything all at once. My "balance" must come over a period of time. Right now, we are facing health issues and have had to make frequent trips of several hours each, stay overnight, return, repeat. My studio time is sporadic, and I cannot work when I get there. I am tired. One day I realized that it is a right brain/ left brain conundrum. Caregiving forces me to be highly organized, alert, on top of many details. My art needs for me to let all that go and simply follow where it leads. That part of me is still there, and I know from past experience that my studio time is coming and that when it does, I will be THERE. That is the balance in my life these days....

  5. And aren't there problems everywhere? I don't mean earth-shaking ones, but my most recent was hanging new curtains. Doesn't sound difficult, does it? But the current rods didn't fit the sleeve--shall I adapt the curtain by unsewing (which I'm pretty good at, I'm sorry to say) or buy new rods? Finally the rods won since un/re-sewing would be very time-consuming. Then the new valances were too short which necessitated new holes for the new rods and on it went. Neighbors from both sides came over and we solved all the problems. Like you said, more heads is better than one. By the way, real spackle (spackel?) is better than toothpaste to fill a hole in the wall.