1000 words. Other terms used in this entry linked as required

Creativity n. Access to unusual states, including ideas and expressions. This access can include implementation of unusual arrangements, including, eventually, as constructed situations.


1. Understanding the Unusual

2. The Desirability of Creativity

3. Further Good Examples.

1.Understanding the Unusual

The unusual states accessed by creativity can be usefully understood as states are understood in the study of thermodynamics. These are available but statistically unlikely microstates. For this understanding we will obviously want to import ways of categorizing the states from outside studies in thermodynamics, ways that have practical application in social life. Examples might be descriptions such as  “expressive,” “relevant,” “evocative,” “coherent,” “proven,” and so on.

“Unusual” in most contexts is a relative term; the study of thermodynamics can also provide a sense in which every event, relation and thing on planet Earth, is “unusual.” But, assisted by the imported categories, within a larger state we can describe microstates as unusual in a relative sense. Given this relativised sense of “unusual,” we can understand how access to unusual states is necessary and sufficient for creativity. This raises the question, dealt with in the next section, of useless or even harmful unusual states, and so of useless or even harmful creativity.

Energy is required to attain and maintain any unusual state in order to counteract the statistical tendency for unusual states to drift into more likely states. As an illustration, Maxwell’s Demon (depicted) is required to stop box B becoming the same as box A, and the demon would require energy to function. If an initially unusual state proves to be desirable, energy would be required to maintain that state even though after a time it would presumably cease to be relatively unusual.

Attainment of unusual states could be part of everyday life, if creativity involves an unusual approach to the labour necessary for further specialisation. Punk might furnish examples here. As might cleaning containers for recycling in water that itself will be recycled, or getting bush turkeys to peck pots clean in the back yard. Obviously creativity might not be part of everyday life, requiring instead specialised skills e.g. Arnold Schönberg could invent twelve tone music only as an already highly skilled composer. The punk and bush turkey examples sound DIY, though there is no reason creativity must involve DIY ease, even within the everyday.  

2.The Desirability of Creativity

The idea of unusual states does not discriminate across ethical content. This fact suggests creativity could, in theory, be useless or even destructive.

There is nothing wrong with thinking of creativity as useless. The unusual states accessed may be of a kind yet to find a use. Imaginary numbers, matrices as well as complex numbers had no useful application when discovered, and so were unusual and creative examples of mathematical discourse. It was a long time, sometimes centuries, before these discoveries were put to use by particle physicist PAM Dirac (1902-1984) and others. As well unusual states, useless to us, may be useful to an alien race, whether or not also unusual and so creative for them. Finally, useless unusual states may just simply be out there, and recognition of such be a part of a re-enchantment of the cosmos.

We should be more careful about thinking of creativity as wanton destruction. Unjustified killing etc is far from extra-ordinary as has been made clear in numerous literary etc examples, for e.g Cain a Mystery by Lord Byron, Kurt Vonnegurt’s Trout fable where periodic elements rebel against humanity, having been involved in so many atrocities or J.G.Ballard’s novel Atrocity Exhibition, or to take examples from post-punk music, the Joy Division song named after Ballard’s novel, Rowland Howard’s Golden Age of Bloodshed, much Lydia Lunch, material etc, etc. Relevantly, all these examples involve a creative assessment of both undesirable and non-creative activity.

Even accepting that oppression etc has been literally done to death, it remains true that there could, for example, be an unusual and so creative idea for murder, for instance in detective fiction. What should be borne in mind regarding the desirability of creativity is that there are many unusual states to be accessed, as the Surrealists demonstrated. Entropy itself indicates the existence many many available states, many of which in the right context are unusual. A sheer sense of challenge would alone make it more attractive to find and reach those very rare states that come out as win win wins; personally, inter-personally and with broader nature. We will also want creativity to be sustainable if we wish to maintain and improve the initially unusual states accessed. The suggestion is then that creativity is desirable as harmonious and sustainable.

3. Further Good Examples

We are now in a position to conclude with further “good” examples of creativity. “Good” here has the dual sense of both being an example of reaching a desirable state, and also of being an informative example.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is taitlin.jpeg Starting on a Constructivist note Tatlin’s Tower proposal can be read as an urban/natural win win win.  So might a constructed situation involving renewed Meyerhold style bio-mechanics, where green and ambient spaces accommodate yoga movements, martial arts and the like. Around the same time as Constructivism, Dada collages broke up the sensorium permitting unusual ideas and feelings. Realism or more figurative material is not excluded: today a Darcy Doyle or Deborah Hood painting might bring an unusual urban environmental awareness to living in a queenslander house. A quite traditional landscape may unexpectedly take us to a very different place to where our thoughts would usually have wandered.

Today resourcefulness is relatively unusual and creative, and can be found in life hacks etc. The motorcycle repair solutions described in Robert Pirsig’s Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance (1974) sound creative, and is creative in forwarding unusual philosophical ideas. Around the same time Novelette Barnett approached reggae creatively by playing a recorder to suggest a no frills independence of mind in her song Fire De A Town.

And so on and, hopefully, on. The sheer amount of creativity, its diversity and compatibility with everyday life and DIY suggest there is no justification for reifying or fetishizing creativity to demonstrate its reality or protect it from being forgotten, neither today nor in regards to past creative activity.

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