Despite a lack of natural ability, I did have the one element necessary to all early creativity: naïveté’, that fabulous quality that keeps you from knowing just how unsuited you are for what you are about to do. Steve Martin, Born Standing Up
In my previous post (Aliens from Inner Space), I suggest that the term “alien” refers to whoever or whatever appears to be strange, foreign or different from oneself. Generally, we do not want to be “alien” or “alienated” but the fact is that we all, at times, experience the discomfort and awkwardness of being a stranger in a strange land. The concept of “inner alien” is simply a metaphor that calls attention to that fact and to the positive possibility of such experiences.
Lehrer (Imagine: How Creativity Works) begins his Chapter called “The Outsider” with this quote from Steve Martin’s book Born Standing Up. The chapter provides numerous cases where someone outside a field of knowledge is more successful at solving problems in the field than the so-called experts and where people having an interest in but no past knowledge about a problem come up with the most creative solutions. This is why young people often appear to be more creative than old folks. But, Dean Simonton, a psychologist studying creativity says that getting older does not inevitably lead to a loss of creativity. Lehrer quotes him as saying:
If you can keep finding new challenges, then you can think like a young person even when you’re old and gray.
Lehrer also refers to considerable evidence that living in foreign cultures and being bilingual can stimulate creativity. Such experiences, says Lehrer ….”endows the traveler with a valuable open-mindedness, making it easier for him or her to realize that a single thing can have multiple meanings (p. 129). Lehrer ends this chapter with the following observation:
Knowledge can be a subtle curse. when we learn about the world, we also learn all the reason why the world cannot be changed…….We become numb to the possibilities of something new. In fact, the only way to remain creative over time–not to be undone by our expertise–is to experiment with ignorance, to stare at things we don’t fully understand. (p. 135)
To cultivate the “inner alien” takes courage as you must always catch yourself getting comfortable and consciously take risks by immersing yourself in situations that seem challenging. I would suggest that artists, and anyone else who want to foster and maintain creativity, must make this process an integral part of their “practice”. In the next post I will suggest that this is the main ingredient of any “spiritual practice. PLEASE
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