Wednesday, June 9, 2010

The Existential Angst Continues

Fair warning:  I'm still a bit of a textual wanderer.

During the drive to work this morning, I heard a Charles Osgood segment on news radio (yes, I'm old.)  He interviewed a pundit of one sort or another who says that America has lost its creativity.  Oh sure, there are still creative people, but they've all gone into the financial sector, according to this guy, anyway.  Well, one does have to admit that the invention of hedge funds did involve no small amount of creative spark, but what about the innovation of the iPod or another such device?  Sometimes it's difficult to see the creativity through all the commercialism and mass production.  Further along in my drive, I noticed perhaps an example of what the man was saying.
I work in an old, decaying part of town.  There is a clock on the side of one of the buildings.  I'm really not into old timey things, but I noticed this clock today in ways I hadn't before.  In the wake of the news segment, I noticed the clock's ornate casing, the calligraphy of the numbers, and the craftsmanship of the metal hands.  I can't say for certain, but I'd assert that it was made by hand, perhaps specially for the building.  It had no appearance of a mass produced, Andy Warhol silkscreened, commercial item.  Don't see much of that kind of creative artistry anymore.  Who can afford it?
So I kept musing on the meme.  What is creativity?  Psychologists have spent a great deal of time trying to answer that, trying to locate just where in the brain the creative impulse takes place.  A few researchers have pointed to sketches of artists like Beethoven and Monet that show the men leaning on the front corners of their heads, perhaps indicating that the creative center is positioned somewhere in the frontal lobe.  Self-help hucksters have published many a book, promising to unlock one's "creative potential." 
One definition I have heard for "creativity" is "giving the world something it didn't know it needed."  If that's the case, I'm screwed because I don't think my writing is all that creative.  Not when compared to something like William Burroughs' Naked Lunch or William Gibson's Neuromancer.  But then again those aren't necessarily the most accessible of literary works, so we're  right back to the conundrum of "art v. commerce."
So what enhances creativity?  You'll have to pardon me if I eschew a book like The Artist's Way.  Perhaps if I bake my brain with more lattes I can speed up performance.  Or not, according to a study I linked a few posts back.  Maybe it's something more mercurial in nature, something that ebbs and flows in the spirit of the moment.  Under the heavy rains and gray skies of yesterday ("the color of television, tuned to a dead channel"), I listened to The Cure and This Mortal Coil.  I felt more creative than I did in a month of sunny days.  This would seem to run in the face of people who say "get out in the sun."  Maybe there's no solid answer when it comes to human creativity.
Reading helps me.  I'm trying to get through my piles and piles of unread books that presently sit stacked in my basement like the hewn stones of a medieval castle.  I need to finish Above Top Secret first, but I'm eager to dive into Neal Stephenson's Cryptonomicon and Jim Keith's Casebook on the Men In Black.  In the meantime, here are a few things I've stumbled across today:

Christina has gone Transhuman!

 I've been browsing Glitchwerk, a studio that creates computer generated sci fi art.  A couple of the thumbs in the gallery look like they could be straight outta Neuromancer.  Hmm.  Maybe that should be the name of a trip hop group.

And who doesn't like Radiohead?

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