Intro: The ability to think critically is a divine gift, a tremendous responsibility, and a moral/ethical imperative. In our day, such thinking has been displaced by hyper-emotionalism on the one hand and new-agey ‘mindfulness-at-the-expense-of-in-depth-reasoning’ on the other. We absolutely need to think deeply, soberly, and rationally, if we want to have any sense of credibility.
However, it is also exceedingly important to think creatively. We have all met those individuals who are exceptionally adept at thinking INSIDE the box, as they myopically toe the line, readily maintaining the status quo. Such have no qualms impeding progress; they often work in a primarily rote manner, being quick to declare what “the book says…” They often operate out of such things motives as fear, laziness, lack of skill, and personal expedience/self-interest.
In distinction to such, we owe it to ourselves, and to others, to be as creative as possible, and to foster an environment that promotes such creativity. If we can’t be as such, or refuse to be as such, at the very least, we should get out of the way of others desiring to operate in a more innovative and productive manner. It is absolutely dishonourable to knowingly stand as an obstacle, or stumbling-block, to growth, productivity, and efficiency.
So How Do We Promote Creativity? How do we become more creative. The following is just a very short list of suggestions, but hopefully it will be beneficial as a starting point.
I. Embrace the Future Backwards Approach: In other words, consider something today not in terms of what we know now but in terms of what we may know in the distant (or even not so distant) future. Consider that what would have sounded erroneous, impossible, or even asinine five hundred years ago is very much real and true in our day. In 1518, talk of mobile devices, airplanes, television and radio, advanced medical knowledge and procedures, etc., would likely have been deemed fanciful at best and sheer madness at worst. Today, such things are common place in the Western world. Forget five hundred years, just think of the progress we’ve experienced in just the past one hundred years. Those living in 1918 would hardly believe what we have available to us in 2018; our cars are significantly different, our homes and appliances; our workplaces and hospitals; we have computers, nuclear energy, nanotechnology, biotechnology, etc..
If we continue at our current rate of progress (i.e. from 1918 to 2018) who is to say what will be known, and what will be possible in 300 years, let alone 3,000. So with this in mind, ask yourself, “is this new idea, argument, purported discovery, etc., really that hard to fathom as a possibility? Can it be that what I am tempted to reject, scoff at, or otherwise ridicule now, five hundred years from now, may be accepted as common knowledge?”
II. Increase Your Neutral Storage Capacity (Strengthen Your Thought Balloon): The quote “It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it” is attributed to Aristotle; what a great quote it is. Far too often, we think we need to have an opinion; we think we need to either accept the matter or reject it. Why, however, can’t we (more often than not) simply hear it out, say “that’s interesting; let me think about it,” and store it in that mental file called “I can neither accept nor reject this at this time,” until critical research has been performed. Abstaining from needless commentary, and otherwise remaining open to the possibilities in as non-judgmental a manner as possible, is vital to the development and maintenance of a creative mindset. Always be willing to ask yourself: (1) “is my uninformed incredulity defensible or is it a manifestation of my own ignorance, bias, and shortsightedness” and (2) “is my dismissal of the matter evidence of well-reasoned prudence or mere rashness and folly on my part?” As we ask such questions, remain prudently open to the possibilities, acknowledging that so much is possible that we deem otherwise. And yet, accept nothing prematurely; embrace only what you can reasonably prove. I hope to speak more on this aspect as I right about what I call “thought balloons” (a metaphor for the storing of information in the mind, expanding it thereby, in like manner to how water causes the water balloon to expand; some can handle only so much water before they explode whilst others can grow to tremendous sizes… we want minds that are elastic and durable enough to so expand).
III. Despise The Fear: One of the greatest obstacles to openness and creativity is fear of being judged. So often, we self-censor because we are afraid of looking ‘dumb,’ weird, ‘like an idiot,’ etc. Understand this, those who are most apt to openly ridicule you, demean you, mock you, or to otherwise judge you negatively, are often the people with the least intellectual capacity to do so. Foolish people mock what they cannot understand; sadly however, the more capable often limit themselves, as a means of trying to conform, so as to avoid such negativity. Assess those prone to ridicule and ask yourself “does this person exhibit the degree of acuity, intelligence, wisdom, or (successful) personal experience necessary to justify their responses and actions?” If the answer is no, if they lack the wherewithal to rightly judge you, or accurately discern your position(s), why limit yourself by their shortcomings? Why walk hunched over and bowed down because they set the ceiling so low that you feel that you cannot stand, where you could indeed stand if you punched through the nonsense. Be like a hot knife through butter; as much as possible stand up, man up, walk uprightly, and just cut through the foolishness. Do not let such people hold you down or weigh you down, especially not when you can avoid it. There are times in life where we have to be subject to such things; in such cases, never give into it in your own mind. You may be curbed for a season in action but never let it curb your intellect, ethics, and/or creativity. You may have to act in a confined way but that doesn’t mean you have to embrace that way as being intelligent, efficient, or optimal. The battle is for your mind; do not allow it to be infiltrated by the arguments, inferences, or judgments of those lacking in ability, character, and so on.
IV. Constantly Examine, and Re-Examine, Your Beliefs, Paradigms, Arguments, and Proof-texts. Stagnation is the result of resting on our laurels, embracing the status quo, accepting only what is familiar, buying into unsupported excuses, and otherwise falling back upon our existing notions, emotions, and defenses. Always accept the possibility of either being wrong or not knowing the truth that you know, as really and fully as you ought to, or think you do. Revisit settled matters, challenge yourself, engage in thought experiments, play “devil’s advocate,” listen to opposing commentary, argue the other side as best as you can (not unto sophistry or hypocrisy but to more fully grasp matters). Take nothing for granted
V. Share The Knowledge And Creativity: Information and innovation begets information and innovation; do not be a knowledge hoarder, share what you know so that knowledge, and others, will grow. A person who is viewed as a “center of knowledge” is a valuable one. Having such a storehouse is commendable. However, from a character point of view, what does it say about you if you withhold such information when others could benefit from it. Some people fail to share knowledge because they are lazy. Some people fail to share knowledge because they fail to see the importance of doing so. However, some fail to share knowledge deliberately, as a form of supposed “job security,” desiring to look important, or even worse, trying to look more important than others. The first grouping is sad; the second grouping is unfortunately; but the third group is downright pathetic. Why? Because such put the good of themselves above the good of those that they are called to serve. This kind of mindset and behaviour evidences a powerful deficiency in honour and integrity. Don’t be the person who needs to look important at the expense of their peers, and/or at the expense of those relying on them to provide the best service possible. The more you share your know-how, and the more you embrace the know-how shared by others, the more creative you will become — I almost guarantee it.
VI. Understand the importance of consilient thought: The more you learn about seemingly unrelated topics, and the more deeply you learn about them, the more you will begin to see the interconnections between (like to say, and truly believe, that everything is connected). I give the example of thousands of buildings on the surface. Each building has an underground connection to several of those closest to it. Those underground connections have deeper tunnels, connecting buildings that are even further away. The deeper down you go, the more connections you encounter, and the farther (and further, metaphorically speaking) you can go. Though no building has a direct connection to all other buildings, since all of the buildings are connected to other buildings, and no building is without such a connection, if you delve down deep enough, and if you travel far enough, you will see how each building (i.e. each topic) is linked to every other.
The more you can perceive, think, and reason on this interconnected level, the more creative you will be, and the more open to possibilities you will be. You will understand that though you cannot see the connection, one may very well exist, and if you dig deep enough, you can find the link and use it to pull together seemingly unrelated topics, disciplines, fields of study, etc., to form a greater understanding of both the whole, and the individual topics making up that whole. This is essentially what consilience is. Think big, think deeply, think interconnectedly, think in terms of possibilities, remember than there are an infinite number of things yet to be discovered, and your creativity will flow.
Some things to remember: We are all wired differently; for some temperaments/personality types/individuals, creativity flows more freely than for others. The key is to embrace it as much as possible, recognise the value of it, work at it, and do whatever you can to avoid being a hindrance to it.