Meaning, action, creativity

Antonio Dias has a challenging post on Meaning and Action. It’s not a light read and I struggle to understand it fully but it seems like a really worthwhile struggle. This post is more thinking out loud in response and not particularly neat and tidy.

This is one of the chunks that really got my attention:

To paraphrase Krishnamurti We don’t change by trying to change. We just change. In a flash when we connect with a new awareness. This is a mirror to what happens learning to ride a bike. No amount of willing trying, striving to “figure it out” gets us there. We stumble and scramble and finally give up trying. At this point we unleash tacit knowledge. All of a sudden we are riding… Unleashing tacit knowledge – tacit, what is there without the need for explanation – opens pathways to coherence.

And if I follow correctly, this unleashing of tacit knowledge is what creativity is. As per the sainted Viola,  “Creativity is not the clever rearranging of the known.”  I think David Bohm aruges that this is the point where something pops out or unfolds from the unmanifest to the manifest.

This reminds me of discovering the ideas of Otto Rank (blogged here). Life is a series of separations, we leave behind old versions of ourselves as we learn. From that post:

The ego continually breaks away from its worn-out parts, which were of value in the past but have no value in the present. The neurotic [who cannot unlearn, and, therefore, lacks creativity] is unable to accomplish this normal detachment process … Owing to fear and guilt generated in the assertion of his own autonomy, he is unable to free himself, and instead remains suspended upon some primitive level of his evolution.

Antonio speaks of the self as, ulitmately, an illusion like the rainbow. We can point to it, it has some kind of meaning, but it isn’t real. If we cling too rigidly to the rainbow, in search of safety, we end up in a very dark place. Creativity is the way we let it go. I think this is where Antonio is driving when he says this:

We are so habituated to the forcing of our organism to comply with the incoherence of thought. We are worn out. We are neurotic, diseased by the effort to maintain an incoherent position. We fear we cannot do any more than just hold on.

As soon as we begin to see the dynamic of incoherence we are not only opened to the well of tacit understanding this makes available. We are brought into touch with the vitality at the heart of our organism and its efforts to maintain coherence.

Yeah, I think I like the sound of that.



2 thoughts on “Meaning, action, creativity

  1. Jack Martin Leith

    Johnnie, I’m delighted to see this:

    ”Creativity is not the clever rearranging of the known.”

    Napoleon Hill, author of Think and Grow Rich, described two kinds of imagination: synthetic imagination, ”clever rearranging of the known”, and creative imagination, the source of non-derivative, out-of-nowhere ideas. Edward Matchett discussed something very similar in his 1975 book, Creative Action.

    I’ve gathered quotes from a range of people who describe their experience of Hill’s creative imagination at work. Here’s one from David Arnold, the British film composer best known for scoring five James Bond films, the 1994 film Stargate, the 1996 film Independence Day, and the cult television series Little Britain, and who was appointed Musical Director for the 2012 Olympic Games and the 2012 Paralympic Games in London. He was asked on BBC Breakfast how he goes about composing music. He replied:

    “You walk around with your aerials out and it gets delivered to you. It’s more about feeling it than thinking about it.”

    More examples here:

    Thanks again, Johnnie.

  2. Antonio Dias


    Thanks for this!

    It is as much writing to find as it is writing to tell…

    Most of the difficulty is in clearing away preconceptions and hidden assumptions. The core insight is straightforward. Creativity is an unfolding, as you say, the unmanifest manifesting. We partake of this. We do not originate it, or “make it happen.”

    The term Ego has been used in many ways. Mid-twentieth century psychology/psychiatry often used it in the sense of a “neurotic” or a “healthy” Ego. So much of this usage keeps us trapped in assumptions and habits of separation. We do need to have a word for the thing staring back at us from a mirror, but unless we are aware of the compelling nature of this illusion of an “I,” we are stuck in a morass of incoherence with no means of escape.

    Chasing rainbows. It’s not that difficult to grasp that this doesn’t make for a good “life’s plan.” But this is exactly how we organize our lives. Grasping coherence/incoherence as a “habit of nature,” provides a compass for our actions.

    All of this seems strange. But that is because we are accustomed to habits and a body of assumptions and expectations that are incoherent. We are in the situation of the Air India senior pilot who was convinced his instruments were wrong and flew his jet and everyone aboard into the ground. Our habits of defending “certainty” prevent us from recognizing when our perception – infected by a host of assumptions – is confused.

    We do have reliable “instruments.” But they are subtle and easily suppressed and ignored.

    I’d love to talk this over at whatever opportunity that presents itself. We could exchange comments, or perhaps have a Skype?



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