Wednesday, 4 April 2012

Freedom and creativity

I tend to equate human freedom with free-speech, but in a wider sense, can we link it to creativity? I don’t mean to say that freedom nurtures creativity, but for the sake of exploration, why not turn it round a little and say that freedom = creativity?

Not that it's a new idea of course, but it's one of those with a tendency to sink into a swamp of verbiage. So let's steer clear of the verbiage and simply say that the more creativity there is, the more freedom we have. I’ve wandered down this track because it seems to me that personal creativity is increasing at a time when political freedom is waning, particularly in the EU.

What niggles me about this is how the political decline doesn’t seem to matter as much as it should. Most of me is convinced it does matter, but part of me wonders if perhaps it doesn’t because it is merely a symptom of something else, something important.

By creativity I mean the freedom to create in its widest sense from DIY to music to blogging, cookery, photography, sport, gardening, dancing or even a personal philosophy. Are these things distractions or are they symptoms of something much more profound?

In statistics, according to Wikipedia, the number of degrees of freedom is the number of values in the final calculation of a statistic that are free to vary. Okay it’s only an analogy, but our degrees of creative freedom seem to have increased dramatically over recent generations. So social complexity must have increased dramatically too. Sticking with the statistical analogy, there are far more creative variables.

So where does political power come in? Because there seems to be little doubt that our democracy has faded away in that there is less and less scope for major political change. I find it hard to believe this doesn’t matter, but that’s no reason for not trying to believe it - if only to see what happens.

Suppose, as I posted on recently, political life is becoming more automated but human creativity is also generating a social trend we haven’t yet named properly. After all, it surely doesn't stretch the bounds of credulity that human creativity may be working on something powerfully social as well as personal.

In fifty years or so, we’ll maybe know what it is, but I won’t be part of that we, so I’d like an inkling now. To winkle out that inkling is no easy task, so I’ll begin by sticking with the name creativity as a descriptor. After all, the renaissance was an early budding of human creativity and it has been nurturing itself ever since.

Nurturing itself?

Of course – that’s surely a feature of creativity – it nurtures itself. I feel there is a link with complexity and emergent properties here, but this is not the place to explore it. So maybe the political elites have no chance in that they are on the wrong track. Laws and regulations are no match for sheer complexity and self-nurturing adaptability of human creativity.

If we wish to be cosmic about it, then the cosmos is creative and we have a spark of that creativity within us. We always did, but it's been some time in the nurturing. This you might say is obvious to a religious person but is a scientific blind-spot. Well for the purposes of this post at least, I'm not inclined to disagree.

Not that these ideas are strong enough to bear much weight. I still think our political elites are appalling shits and it matters that they are appalling shits, yet I don’t want to cut myself off from other possibilities.

Creativity may be a far more complex and powerful social beast than we generally suppose.


Roger said...

There seems no shortage of creativity - matchstick cathedrals, craft fairs, Twitter. Corrie is very good too, would have gone down a storm at The Globe. Lots of creativity and commercially driven by leisure and education. One would expect a new Tolstoy or Picasso to pop up every minute. Perhaps their work will emerge in time.

Nurtures itself? Yes it does, yesterday's discussion of sound and accent on R4 was interesting at two levels - why anyone would bother or be paid for this and why it was actually so interesting. Initially I thought 'elitist tosh' and then thought 'how interesting, I'm glad someone thinks this worth paying for'. On the other hand there is Hirst's skull - totally vulgar imho - maybe I cannot see its second level.

Then there is genius, something that tends to arise out of hard study early on that matures into something sublime - and rare.
Been reading details of Leonardo's technique, just shows what a well funded and bright chap can do when he keeps away from art school. But Leonardo represented and worked for an elite. If you can fake genius you got it made.

Perhaps freedom is like a squashy balloon, squeeze it here and it expands over there, a bit like the universe.

Sadly I feel politics is a lost cause.

Demetrius said...

Re political elites being on the wrong track. One thinks of all those who governed in the 18th, the 19th and into the 20th Centuries whose mindset was from the Classics, with particular reference to Ancient Rome.

Roger said...


Well from Walpole on they had a rising market and pots of moolah. The patrician view helped 'this is good for you - and this (not the same at all!) is good for us'. This lasted up till MacMillans's time. From then a sinking market and that wretched telly and smart-arsed meeja types.

At least with the patricians you knew what they had in mind, this lot hide the real message as best they can.

A K Haart said...

Roger - "Perhaps freedom is like a squashy balloon, squeeze it here and it expands over there, a bit like the universe."

Good analogy although balloons are vulnerable to pricks (:

Demetrius - yes, the classicists seem to have been more remote and less demanding which is what we need more of today.

James Higham said...

In fifty years or so, we’ll maybe know what it is

I'd say we'll be lucky to make it past 2030.

A K Haart said...

James - 2050 is my optimism peeking through.