Speaking In Tongues
Guided by Voices

Creativity: Theories, Beliefs, and Discoveries

by Jenya Krein

My intention here is to introduce, research, and to meditate on the nature of creativity, creative expression, and creative personality.

* * *

When talking about creativity, the key words which come to mind could be genius, talent, intelligence, ability, skills, originality, and individuality.
The noun, «create», in English, has a meaning of «to originate», «to bring into being», «to give birth», and «to produce». In its essence, the process of creativity and creation is a process of change with a certain dynamic of a beginning and an end -- the beginning of a new product of creation, and the end of the world before such an act of creation and change. In this sense, creativity is an essence of life, it's context of change and creation.

* * *

Genius, according to Roman mythology, is a guardian spirit that protects every individual, family, or city. It was believed that genius can award his worshipers with special intellectual powers and success. The word genius came to indicate an individual gifted with outstanding intellectual powers.
At different times in history the variety of cultural circumstances and religious beliefs effected attitudes towards gifted persons, the roles they played in their communities, and their place on social ladder. The attitude here is a dependent variable, which seem to change dramatically over time -- from straight-out worship to tentative fear, or even paranoia.

* * *

From recent trades, it seems to me that an old European notion about the nature of genius is much more permissive than the hard-boiled American mistrust and disapproval of the intellectualism. As Richard Hofstadter argued in Anti-Intellectualism in American Life (1963) there is certain mistrustful ambivalence toward the intelligent ones.
In his essay The Last Taboo: The Dumbing Down of American Movies the great essayist Phillip Lopate writes: «The creative intellectual's inability to learn anything of consequence from his or her experience is a constant in recent biopics.» Later, he states: «The one thing that is seemingly impermissible to show in American movies today is an intellectual possessed of self-insight ... the last taboo: we cannot have thinking people who aren't taken in by themselves.»
The European Intellectual is so alien for the American taste that even such a notorious figure in cinematic culture as Woody Allen was repeatedly doomed as «foreign» and «European» -- or as a lyricist of the New-Yorkian specific culture.
As you can see, the attitudes and the myths could be quiet harsh.
However, the topic of this paper is much more focused on the historical development and evolvement of the concept of creativity, its historical medium, and, finally, on the recent research, particularly one by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi.

* * *

Much of my life I was attracted, inspired, fascinated, and intrigued by the people who are able to bring about personal and intimate world of Self onto an open screen of common mentality and communal knowledge bank -- seemingly uncaring but endlessly fascinated with the life of a single persona and historical turnaround.
I remember my grandmother, whose blessed presence I enjoyed only for the first seventeen years of my life, saying that she does not envy money, or love, or luck, but the talent as a gift of life.

* * *

It has been said, that creativity is the «capacity to have new thoughts and to create expressions unlike any other» (Creativity, 1993-1997). There are many, sometimes contradictory views about the nature of creativity. Still, many scientists agree that the creative process involves «application of past experiences or ideas in novel ways» (Kearsley, 1994,1999).
There had been no systematic studies of living creative individuals that existed -- until very recently. These studies of human creativity represented the «bridging of the earlier concepts through application of research methods».
Intelligence, another much studied capacity (capacity to learn and to understand), has been closely linked to creativity (Guilford, 1950).
This essay attempts to introduce the reader to the prevailing ideas and to the notions of the 20th century about creativity. These theories and ideas, being closely linked (since they arise from the common knowledge bank of Western Culture), represent the time and the culture in which they have been developed. The socio-cultural and chronological aspects of these theories and ideas are considered and examined. The main focus of this paper is to introduce the Theory of Optimum Performance which is concerned with creativity; the way this theory could be applied to personal experiences, and its effect on the quality of human life -- professional and personal. Although, in the framework of this paper there is an attempt to analyze the «good» and the «evil» of creativity in relation to society and progress: should society encourage personal creativity? Can we foresee the eventual results of creativity -- as an «attempt to impose our desires on reality»(Csikszentmihalyi, 1996, p. 6)?

Introduction: Creativity in our lives

The evolution of thought on creativity is an evolution of philosophical and creative thought on humanity and our capacity as «creators».
Creativity was not always viewed as the prerogative of man. There are certain beliefs, ideas, and myths concerned with creativity. For example, philosophy sees creativity as a process of change. Philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche saw power over oneself and others as the source of creativity. Romanticism, a movement in literature and in art, looked at creativity as the «freely expressed feelings of the human spirit» («Creativity», 1993-1997).
Nikolay Berdyayev (1874-1948), Russian philosopher, known for his «Christian existentialist or personalist views» (Baird, 1993-1997), viewed humans as spiritual beings, and valued freedom and capacity for creativity as «most precious gifts» of enormous importance.
Carl Jung (1875-1961), Swiss psychiatrist, who founded the analytical school of psychology, interpreted creativity, and mental and emotional disturbances as an «attempt to find personal and spiritual wholeness» (Jung, Carl Gustav, 1993-1997).
Creativity, at present, is widely and legally recognized notion and human capacity. There are government restrictions on creativity (Censorship) and legal protection of creative works (Copyright). It is being recognized in business schools, and creative problem solving is one of the phenomena of the 20th century and a very familiar term on the marketplace.

* * *

For us, mortal humans -- our basic fears and natural curiosity have always been original motivators in our search for the best ways to problem solving and happier life. It is also crucial when we try to adapt to new attitudes and ideas, and, subsequently, to change the world around us -- or in our refusal to deal with the new unfamiliar concepts, theories, approaches, and thoughts. These motivators could stimulate our minds, they can encourage us to make the difference and to «leave our mark», or they can represent the roadblocks on the way to progress and to change.
The need to examine the roots and different faces of creativity becomes even more evident with more studies linking creativity to a higher productivity (Sternberg, 1988, 1995; Torrance, 1962, 1988). With the rise of awareness toward our common problems and needs -- the self-accumulated knowledge of the society, where the life expectancies are much different than even those of our fathers and mothers -- the demands are on the improved performance and productivity.

* * *

What is the nature of genius? Is it divine creation or a diabolic design to destroy humanity? Time and again people asked these questions -- are we inspired from the above, are we «hard-wired» for spirituality and for creativity? Or, maybe, our dark genius lays in the far recesses of our subconsciousness, outside of the familiar path of rational thought?
Should we adapt a Freudian view of our human nature, should we follow in the footsteps of the mysterious but inspiring Jungian world? Will we be lured by the optimistic theory of Maslow? Or, maybe, just maybe, a human nature is capable of almost anything, and all of these scholars were in their own right to create new versions of what we, humans, are all about?
When our creative expressions are limited by routine daily activities, when self-realization is slightly more than just a repetition of past achievements -- we do not seem to enjoy it very much or for very long. There is not much joy in monotonous labor, there is no intellectual stimulation when you have to go to the same places day after day, or if you have to perform the same tasks over and over again.
We do not like repetition. Of course, there is some safety in the monotonous work, but not much joy. We crave the creativity and the originality in our lives. Time and again, living through routine and responsibilities, we ask ourselves: is it all there is? Where is the excitement? How should we use our unrequited emotions?
Now, when in a renewed rush to examine our own selves and the world we live in, on the very verge of a new Millennium, armed with cars, dishwashers, microwave ovens, computers, Internet, cellular phones, global communications -- all these new technologies, which threaten to become (and they already did!) everyday reality -- reluctantly, we stop at the doorway of the new century. It seems that we have searched earth and heaven, discovered unimaginable, changed the world, but do we know anything about ourselves?

* * *

As my grandmother would say on a sunny May Day, «Bolsheviks have all the luck,» meaning that people will march under the clear sky, with no rain or snow during these annual festivities and demonstrations.

So, do we consider ourselves lucky? We are there, are we not? We did finally arrive to the glorious Information Age, where creativity is supposed to be a given, a birthright. Or is it that we still do not know what the mysterious gift of creativity is all about?
Creativity -- is it a natural human phenomenon, or is it something only a few chosen can enjoy? Some people would like to believe that we are born creative and industrious, that our natural potential, unlimited and free -- given to us as a birthright -- is just stifled and blocked, as a result of uncaring, unnuturing environment, and suppressed through training, rigorous rules and oppressive society. According to Management Review,

Creativity and a workplace

The prevailing feeling among many people who lead so-called good, responsible lives is such that life is just «passing them by». It happens someplace else, maybe just outside of our own windows. Unsettled and frustrated, we organize life's events around our unfulfilled dreams that we do not dare to bring to fruition. We invent machines to lighten our burdens. We fill our houses with new technologies -- but it does not make us happier. We expect more from life, and it seems that our life styles demand even more from us. The need to keep pace with ever more intensifying lifestyle and the growing competition becomes even more evident in the face of economical and cultural globalization.

* * *

The awareness of this need for creativity in the workplace of the corporate world seems to be on the rise. There are undeniable economic benefits in corporate creativity, and many companies recognize it. We witness the emergence of creativity training programs, and more often than not the corporate world adapts these «creativity-friendly» work environments.
There are numerous books on creativity (Csikszentmihalyi, 1996; Sternberg, 1988, 1999) and even a course on creativity at the Harvard Business School, providing evidence that creativity is a valuable business resource. The methods of teaching creativity include the use of brainstorming, confrontation, guided fantasies (visualization), and mind-mapping. To improve creativity students in these training programs encouraged to be committed to creativity, taking a trial-and-error approach, so the companies should be able to develop an organizational structure that encourages creativity. In schools, teachers working with students use similar approaches:

Early conceptualizations of creativity

The discussion on creativity is always closely connected to the theological one: God (or Gods, or Universe, or Higher Power, or Forces, and etc..), as the source of and inspiration for creativity.
Process philosophy, «...a speculative world view which asserts that basic reality is constantly in a process of flux and change,» is known to be concerned with creativity (Baird, 1993-1997):

Such concepts as creativity, freedom and growth are fundamental in process philosophy «...whereas substance philosophy emphasizes static being, process philosophy emphasizes dynamic becoming» (Baird, 1993-1997).

* * *

The view of creativity as a prerogative of man, fairly new in the history of civilization, and could be traced down to Friedrich Nietzsche (1844-1900), German philosopher and poet, who became one of the most provocative and influential thinkers of the 19th century:

According to one of the Nietzsche's most fundamental concepts, traditional values (represented primarily by Christianity) had lost their power in the lives of individuals. He expressed this in his proclamation that «God is dead». The morality which represented traditional values was created, according to Nietzsche, by weak and resentful individuals. Nietzsche argued that instead of old traditional values that do not support modern man, new values and morality could be created. His overman or superman is this creator of new values, of «master morality». Being liberated from old notions and morality this overman is free to choose his own new values. This concept of superman was repeatedly identified with totalitarian philosophies.

* * *

The importance of the controversy that Nietzshe's work created is hard to overestimate. Its influence on the Western culture, together with Schopenhauer's, is enormous. As an example of such influence, and as a reflection of the ideas of these philosophers, Prestuplenie i nakazanie (1866; Crime and Punishment) by Fyodor Dostoyevsky, is the most profound one. Based on the true story, Crime and Punishment is a famous novel about limits of morality. In this novel, the protagonist, student Raskolnikov, pondering ideas current in his time, convinces himself that «true, rational morality means doing the greatest good for the greatest number of people» (Lantz, 1993-1997). He tries to intellectually justify his crime -- the murder of an old pawnbroker. «Only at the end of the novel, in his Siberian prison, does Raskolnikov finally begin to recognize that he has violated not just a human law but God's law as well» (Lantz, 1993-1997). In his article about Dostoevsky Lanz states:

Dostoyevsky became widely known in the English-speaking world only after his death ... between 1912 and 1920. His influence, however, has been immense, and not only in literature. His novels anticipate the 20th-century antiutopian worlds created by British writers George Orwell and Aldous Huxley. His psychological explorations, which intrigued Austrian psychoanalyst Sigmund Freud, show the workings of the unconscious mind and the complexity of the human personality. The religious dimension of his works explores the consequences of a world without God. Even though they are deeply rooted in 19th-century Russia, his novels are surprisingly relevant to the 20th century in that they anticipate contemporary problems of alienation, social disruption, and totalitarianism, and the implications, both positive and negative, of human freedom (Lantz, 1993-1997).

Man as creator

In the Western tradition, the philosophical, rather than scientific, methods were employed to understand the learning process and the mind. Creativity was mostly viewed as a gift, or as a magical power, but not as a process «that unfolds over a lifetime» (Csikszentmihalyi, 1996).
Consider Goethe's poetic drama Faust (first part, 1808; second, 1832). In the famous Faustian legend (Faust believed to be a version of it) a character sells his immortal soul to the devil in return for the knowledge and experience. «Calf of gold» («Le veau d'or»), sings Mephistopheles in his first aria in Gounod's opera about man's aspirations and greed. Mephistopheles urges Faust to drink from the goblet that just moments before contained poison and death, but now contains life: «non plus la mort, non plus le poison; - mais la vie!» (no longer death, no longer poison -- but life).

In such view of the world the man is a mortal, helpless being, greedy and ignorant. Only through intervention of immortal beings can man gain the talent and knowledge that he craves.

* * *

According to Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, professor and former chairman of the Department of Psychology at the University of Chicago, and the author of the Flow, The Evolving Self, and Creativity, who for 30 years studied the lives and experiences of creative people, we came to view creativity as human prerogative only very recently. Csikszentmihalyi argues that for most of the human history, «creativity was held to be a prerogative of supreme beings» (Csikszentmihalyi, 1996, p. 5). He states that the world religions are based on myths where gods are creators -- creators of the heavens, of the earth; and creators of human beings: «helpless things subject to the wrath of the gods» (Csikszentmihalyi, 1996, p. 5). The reason, says Csikszentmihalyi, that we took over the title of a creator is that we understood our world better, than humans understood it at the time when first myths of creation arose. «It is not surprising,» writes Csikszentmihalyi, «that as we ride the crest of evolution we have taken over the title of creator» (Csikszentmihalyi, 1996, p. 5).

Historical medium

The unrest that characterized the 19th century, the search for a stable social structure, the rise and the fall of Napoleon, and Commune in France, were all mediums that facilitated an intense interest of the scientific and cultural community in the human character and human psyche. While evolutionists were trying to explain the behavior and motivations of people through physiology and instincts, the other domain was developing, attempting to justify human behavior. In the year of 1879, the German psychologist Wilhelm Wundt founded a laboratory in Leipzig devoted to the scientific study of psychology. Another German psychologist, Hermann Ebbinghaus, developed techniques for the experimental study of memory and forgetting. At the same time, the American philosopher and psychologist William James started a laboratory at Harvard University for experimental psychology.
According to Sternberg, «one of the most influential and prolific theorists and researchers on human condition, including creativity» (Csikszentmihalyi, 1996, p. 401), history is the medium in which «ideas and events build up and arrive with some significant effects rarely going away». Sternberg's assumption is that the early conceptualizations of creativity and research were in themselves «exceptional creative acts» (Sternberg, 1999). There were no systematic studies of living creative individuals, that existed, until very recently. These studies of human creativity represented «the bridging of the earlier concepts through application of research methods». Sternberg states that methods that being applied are essential to the meaning and significance of creativity in human experience, and to how and why historical events were set in motion. To understand this, writes Sternberg, there are three aspects of creativity within history:

* * *

There are certain socio-cultural and chronological factors, linked to the time in history when it became possible to develop new attitudes towards human mind and human behavior.
On the European political scene at the end of the 19th century, after the years of struggle for power, the Eastern Question arose as a by-product of the state system in Europe, «which had been in use since the late 18th century as a way to preserve the balance of power» (Eastern Question, 1993-1997). By the beginning of the 1800s «the European empires had largely declined. Most of the Spanish, Portuguese, and French colonies in the Americas gained independence during and in the aftermath of the Napoleonic Wars» («Eastern Question,» 1993-1997). In France, republicans of Paris staged a bloodless revolution and proclaimed the establishment of the Third Republic, the Commune of Paris (1871) -- the revolutionary government established by the people of Paris:

Britain, which competed principally against France and Germany, made a series of claims in West and southern Africa in the 1880s.
This so-called New Imperialism was

The 19th century economy was distinctly marked by the mass emigration of Europeans into the New World. Over 40 million individuals were said to have emigrated from Europe between 1850 and 1913 (Hatton, Williamson. 1994). The end of the century has been characterized by the rise of the New Imperialism and the end of Victorian era. With the end of Victorian era, «the moral standards, characteristic of that time, were changing as well. According to some historians the decline in morality began with the moral relativism of the 1960s» (Hatton, Williamson. 1994).

* * *

The 20th century is the time that still needs to be reflected upon.
Those who lived through two world wars, the rise and fall of communism and the civil rights revolution suggest that the past was both «better and worse than the common assumption» (Futures.1999). According to the Futures magazine, an individual opinion on the 20th century's most life changing event vary with the person's profession or orientation. A doctor considers the discovery of penicillin as the «20th century's defining moment because this has ended the dark ages in science and medicine». A historian, on the other hand, believes that the «assassination of Archduke Ferdinand was the most important event in the 20th century because this marked the start of World War I» (Futures. 1999).

Theory of optimal experience

A great many psychologists devoted their professional lives to find out «why people become anxious, depressed, or disturbed». (Review of Flow. 1990) For the past few decades, however, more and more researchers have instead been studying «why some people remain confident, optimistic and calm even in the face of hardship and adversity» (Review of Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi. 1990).
According to psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, who has been investigating creativity and its influence on the lives of contemporary people, «creativity is a central source of meaning in our lives» (Csikszentmihalyi, 1996). For the last 20 years Csikszentmihalyi has been studying the concept he calls flow. The state of flow, according to Csikszentmihalyi, is the special state of «involved enchantment», that lies between boredom and anxiety. It takes energy and effort: a person in flow state is mentally involved in the challenge and intrinsic pleasure of the activity (and not bored), «yet lacks self-consciousness and performance apprehension (the hallmarks of anxiety)» («Review of Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi», 1990).
The article in the 1990 March issue of the New York Times Book Review states that as a theory of optimal experience, flow is a big improvement over Abraham Maslow's notion of self-actualization:

Csikszentmihalyi regards flow as the antidote to the evils of boredom and anxiety in all realms of experiences. According to the article, flow is important, because it underlines the psychological accuracy of what philosophers have been saying for centuries: the way to happiness lies in absorption in the world, «not in having it done for you but in doing it yourself».
In accordance to his own theory, Csikszentmihalyi, like so many creative people that he studied, builds up on his own findings, creating a life-long work and commitment. In his next book, Creativity: Flow and the Psychology of Discovery and Invention, he writes about creative work:

In this book Csikzentmihalyi illustrates what creative people have contributed in different domains and shows readers how they can be creative. He states that two types of creative people exist, the unusually bright people and the personally creative ones. Moreover, Csikzentmihalyi noted that ten pairs of antithetical traits are present in a creative person. Among them he includes convergent and divergent thinking and being imaginative and realistic at the same time (Csikszentmihalyi, 1996). «Most of the things that are interesting, important, and human,» argues Csikszentmihalyi, «are the results of creativity». We share 98 percent of our genetic makeup with chimpanzees. What makes us different -- our language, values, artistic expression, scientific understanding, and technology -- is the result of «individual ingenuity» that was recognized, rewarded, and transmitted through learning. He states that without creativity it would be difficult «to distinguish humans from apes»(Csikszentmihalyi, 1996). The reason creativity is so fascinating is that when we are involved in it, we feel that we are living more fully than during the rest of life.

Creativity -- in the eyes of beholder or scientist

Creative process uses «symbolic coding» to express emotions, views, and ideas. When we think about creative people, the first image that comes to mind is an artist, or a poet:

Still, from the researcher's point of view, creativity is a «process by which a symbolic domain in the culture is changed»(Csikszentmihalyi, 1996. p.7- 8). Linking creativity to biological evolution, Csikszentmihalyi compares the ability to create to the process of genetic changes which happens as the result of evolution «where random variations take place in the chemistry of our chromosomes, below the threshold of consciousness» (Csikszentmihalyi, 1996. p.7- 8). The example he uses to illustrate his theory, however, is not complete, since in the evolution of culture there are no equivalents to genes and chromosomes. To support his theory, author uses a concept of memes -- units of information, necessary to be learned in every generation to continue the culture. Theories, numbers, laws, languages -- they are all memes, being passed on from parents to children in order to support and develop existing culture: «It is the memes that a creative person changes, and if enough of the right people see the change as an improvement, it will become part of the culture» (Csikszentmihalyi. 1996. p. 7).
It is obvious to the reader that the more memes the person is able to learn, the more culturally adept this person becomes. Following Csikszentmihalyi's lead it is easy enough to trace down this concept of creativity to the notorious nature versus nuture argument and to the notion of progress, change, and «improvement of nature».

One on one with creativity

According to Csikszentmihalyi, and so many other sources, it seems that we would like to believe that creativity is a great way of life: it is out to make us happy, fulfilled -- and it is healing, transcendental! But is it so? If creativity is such a blessing, and we all have to achieve this divine state of flow, would we solve all the world's problems, wars, poverty, injustice? And if genius is blessed, how should we judge the development of submarines, machine guns, battleships, and chemical warfare that «made increasingly clear the destructive side of technological change»? (Technology. 1993-1997). Creativity, as a source of any innovation, change, or technological development, becomes an issue of controversy. «The God is dead,» proclaimed Nietzsche. «...We have taken over the title of creator,» states Csikzentmihalyi. What will happen now? Csikzentmihalyi argues that «it would help if we realized the awesome responsibility of this new role». He writes:

As with any theory, the theory of optimum performance has its implications. According to Csikzentmihalyi, creativity is the main focus of human life. Without creativity, it seems, our lives tend to become pointless and meaningless. We become mere shadows of our potential selves. It seems that the theory of optimum performance is closely linked with prevailing beliefs and notions of Western civilization, especially the merit-based, Calvinistic notions of American culture.

* * *

The belief that personal responsibility of an individual is necessary condition for successful and fulfilled life could be productive for some individuals and, unfortunately, can alienate and discourage others whose need for collective effort and shared society life is greater. Even Csikzentmihalyi mentions that successful and creative individuals could seem aloof and individualistic. In his opinion, such as only a facade, since, as he states, they are just «busy» or «preoccupied». You can always say that, even being supported by ample evidence and substantial research, Csikzentmihalyi's theory is just another idea. He was just, some people would suggest, fulfilling his own prophecy, and attracting people and evidence he believes in.

The world of ideas, again, can lead us as society either way. It is, after all, the world of presently notorious virtual reality. The controversy is swiping through the media in the whirlwind fashion. It will, no doubt, settle down for a while, then it will arise again with every new phenomenon, event, crime, every change and challenge... Should we? Could we? Where will it lead us? What a great bank of small talk ideas for a casually friendly bridge party.
It was said by Marx that all previous philosophers had tried to understand the world, but the idea should be to change it.
According to Nietzsche, any philosophy is its' creator's pathology.

* * *

As we, as society, learn to appreciate differences and tolerate «alternative» behavior and life styles, we also come to understand that people have different beliefs, different needs, and different ways to express these needs and these beliefs. Of course, there are those creative individuals who need very little communication, encouragement, and resources to stay connected to their own goals, those who are self-motivated, and self-determined to create life for themselves. Still, there are more than enough those -- and it is still no proof that these people are less important than more creative individuals -- those who are willing and happy to have less complicated and less creative lives. Those who follow the rules, and happy to have more secure every day life.

* * *

At different times in history different types of people were called forward. Depending on socio-historical events, there was a need for leaders, for charismatic and creative individuals (and we all know that these traits could be dangerous, they can lead either way), or for the followers -- for people who were willing to perform creative and heroic acts, or for those who were comfortable to lead conservative life styles. It is impossible to say if either of these different types of people are more or less relevant for the survival of human race. Depending on time, historical condition, or type of society the events were taking place in, the necessity rose for a certain type of an individual to come forward in order to preserve this society.
At the time when Nietzshe issued his notorious proclamation, the call for new moral values in Western world was on the rise. The theory of optimum performance came at the time when Western society was ready to accommodate the life style where the man as the creator was able to «create» his or her own reality, when the need for collective effort was temporary overcame by the opportunity to experience an individual reality.
The freedom that we all enjoy now commands us to survive in the world that is increasingly hostile and individualistic. It could seem, that by choosing to become the creator, man is rapidly alienated from the rest of society, and the need for creativity turns into a pressing need for some people -- to fill out places that are empty, to fulfill lonely lives.

* * *

Creativity invites reflection or what is called a philosophical view of the world. Creative mind questions the reality of the picture that presented by this world. It requires an open-mindness, a room for possibilities and potentiality:

Maybe, because of the threatening nature of reflection for an average community dweller, creative personalities sometimes deserve reputations of unsociable and unapproachable characters.
Well, than, should we question the value of creativity? The issue here is as old and as controversial as any human quest: where the reality ends and where the creative mind takes off in search of its' perfect illusion? The controversy of creativity comes from the same old human issues -- problems of self, existential anxieties, human mortality, the value and morality of knowledge, and, finally, the nature of reality.

* * *

If Csikzentmihalyi's theory is right, and I would like to believe so, if we can achieve the state of flow and bliss -- the world-age problems should be solved, and all that you can wish for yourself and for Thy's neighbor is creative state of mind.
Creativity, as an all-organizing principal of mental and, consequently, physical and social activity, structures the ever wandering, anxious and spontaneous human mind.
The spontaneity is a known factor for creativity. Without spontaneous mental activity and consequent action creativity is just another artificial and forced effort. There are all kinds of legends and true historical facts about discoveries made in the dark of the night, in a dream-like state -- performed subconsciously and accidentally. But is it so?
The Law of Least Effort known to be working for the carefree Mozarts of the world. And hard working Salieris are doomed to fall in the pit of forgotten non-geniuses. But if Mozarts are carefree and their genius is just this precious gift of gods... According to Csikzentmihalyi's theory, the law of least effort working only for those who are mentally prepared -- in the reality where the practice is the Law and God is in details. And the dynamic is just right. The right amount of work and effort, the exact measure of freedom and spontaneity.

The wrath of gods

World War I and the Great Depression forced a «sobering reassessment of the rapid technological explosion of the 19-20th centuries» (Technology. 1993-1997).
According to Encarta Encyclopedia, «...worldwide mass unemployment and the disasters met by capitalistic institutions in the 1930s initiated a further strong critique of the benefits that result from technological progress» (Technology. 1993-1997).
The lost generation of World War I was still recovering from the terrifying memories of the battleground, lost limbs, the use of gas as the weapon, the shell shock, and the end of the world as it was known before.
Then, with World War II, came the development of the atomic bomb. The development of computers and transistors came also as a technological outgrowth of World War II. The accompanying trend toward miniaturization is having «equally profound effects on society as well». The possibilities it offers are enormous, but so are «the possibilities for invasion of privacy and for workforce displacement by automated systems»(Technology. 1993-1997).
Many historians of science argue not only that technology is an «essential condition of advanced, industrial civilization» but also that the rate of technological change has «developed its own momentum in recent centuries»(Technology. 1993-1997). Innovations now seem to appear at a rate that increases in geometrical progression -- »without respect to geographical limits or political systems»:

During the 1950s the attention of general public was shifting onto other products of technology that had harmful effects. The automobile exhausts, that were polluting the atmosphere, some chemicals, such as pesticides (DDT) that were threatening the food chain, and mineral wastes were polluting large reservoirs of groundwater:

In his Small Is Beautiful (1973), the British economist E. F. Schumacher stated that --

Supporters of this viewpoint have proposed a value system in which

Another school of thought, technological determinism, argues that «modern society is no longer living in the industrial age of the 19th and earlier 20th centuries». They argue that postindustrial society is already a reality, and that

* * *

There is a fragile balance between the exiting new world we are creating and the dangers that human mind can impose on reality. In the Setting the Stage, an introduction to his book on creativity, describing this dilemma, which he does not even attempt to avoid, Csikzentmihalyi saying:


There are only few months left before we will enter the next Millennium. The uncertainty of the future, the anxiety connected to the past, and to the events of political and cultural unrest -- a prevailing concern. Should our future result in the catastrophic explosion of problems that were accumulating for a long time? Will humanity finally learn the painful lessons of the past and take a safe road to recovery and healing?
«The God is dead,» proclaimed Nietzsche. «...We have taken over the title of creator,» states Cikzentmihalyi. The dangers of human mind studied by Freud -- what do we know about ourselves?

* * *

With more studies targeted to understand the human prospective in relation to happiness and productivity -- would we know better how to make our lives productive and content, even in the face of adversity? If God is «dead» what is the force behind the most profound works of man? Riding on the flow, should we avoid the dangers of unproductive, unfulfilled lives? The dangers of boredom, anxiety, mental illness, misery, poverty, and crime? Maybe, the myth of creativity is a new idol which attempts to take over the empty space of religion and perfect social system we did not create?
There are many questions. This essay can only skirt over the problem, should we say -- an existential question? We do not know the answer, but, maybe, we are close enough to sense that we can fulfill the need for meaning, and to satisfy the age-old craving for creativity and purposefulness.
If we are to become «the main power that decides the destiny of every form of life on the planet -- at least we can try to understand better what this force and how it works» (Csikzentmihalyi. 1996. p. 6).


  1. Baird, Robert. Nietzsche. (1993-1997). Microsoft Encarta 98 Encyclopedia. (CD-ROM). Available: Microsoft Corporation.
  2. Baird, Robert. Berdyayev, Nikolay Aleksandrovich.(1993-1997). Microsoft Encarta 98 Encyclopedia. (CD-ROM). Available: Microsoft Corporation.
  3. Baird, Robert. Process Philosophy. (1993-1997). Microsoft Encarta 98 Encyclopedia. (CD-ROM). Available: Microsoft Corporation.
  4. Blackburn, Simon. (1999). Think. Oxford University Press.
  5. Creativity. (1993-1997). Microsoft Encarta 98 Encyclopedia. (CD-ROM). Available: Microsoft Corporation.
  6. Csikszentmihalyi, Mihaly. (1996). Creativity. Flow and the Psychology of Discovery and invention. New York: Harper Perennial.
  7. Dawkins, Richard. (1999). Science and sensibility. Abstracted from Free Inquiry. 3,1938(5)
    Eastern Question. (1993-1997). Microsoft Encarta 98 Encyclopedia. (CD-ROM). Available: Microsoft Corporation.
  8. Free Will. (1993-1997). Microsoft Encarta 98 Encyclopedia. (CD-ROM). Available: Microsoft Corporation.
  9. Guilford, J. P. (1950). Creativity. American Psychologist. 5, pp.444-454.
  10. Hatton, Timothy J.; Williamson, Jeffrey G..What drove the mass migrations from Europe in the late nineteenth century? Population and Development Review . 09/94, v20:n3. p533(27)
  11. Jung, Carl Gustav.(1993-1997). Microsoft Encarta 98 Encyclopedia. (CD-ROM). Available: Microsoft Corporation.
  12. Kearsley, Greg. (1994,1999). [Online]. Available HTTP (1999. May 2).
  13. Lantz, Kenneth.(1993-1997). Dostoyevsky, Fyodor Mikhaylovich. Microsoft Encarta 98 Encyclopedia. (CD-ROM). Available: Microsoft Corporation.
  14. Lizotte, Ken. Management Review 05/98 v87:n5. p15(3)
    Mastanduno, Michael. (1993-1997). Colonies and Colonialism. Microsoft Encarta 98 Encyclopedia. (CD-ROM). Available: Microsoft Corporation.
  15. Review of Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi. (1990). New York Times Book Review. March 1990.
  16. Schumacher, E. F.. (1973). Small Is Beautiful.
  17. Sternberg, Robert J. (1988). The nature of creativity. New York: Cambridge University Press.
  18. Sternberg, Robert J. (1995). Investing in creativity: many happy returns. Educational Leadership 12/95 v53:n4. p80(5)
  19. Sternberg, Robert J. (1999). Handbook of creativity. New York: Cambridge University Press.
  20. Technology.(1993-1997). Microsoft Encarta 98 Encyclopedia. (CD-ROM). Available: Microsoft Corporation.
  21. The Defining Moment. (1999) Abstracted from Futures. (Cedar Falls, Iowa) 99/04/19
    Torrance, E. P. (1962). Guiding creative talent. Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: Prentice-Hall.
  22. Torrance, E. P. (1988). Creativity as manifested in testing. In The nature of creativity. Edited by R.J. Sternberg. New York: Cambridge University Press, pp. 43-75.
  23. Hofstadter, Richard. (1963). Anti-Intellectualism in American Life.
  24. Lopate, Phillip. The Last Taboo: The Dumbing Down of American Movies. Totally Tenderly Tragically. Anchor Books/ Doubleday, pp.259-279.