Monday, 28 June 2021

Creativity and Energy

One of the features of our online experience is its continuity: there's no space for breath. Personally, I find that endless continuity is very draining. I find myself in need of creating a clearing amidst a chaotic flow of events.

There is a connection between making a clearing and doing something new. A new departure, like all creative acts, must start from nothing. So making nothing before we do anything is the most important thing. In the digital flow of experience, making nothing is difficult. Perhaps we should turn everything off - but this is not the same as making nothing. I do wonder if creating nothing was easier in the past. Perhaps.

It is important to understand the dynamics of nothing. Nothing is not a state - it is a process. You can imagine that you are in a state of nothingness, but physiologically, your cells continue to reproduce themselves, your neurons pump calcium, you breathe, and so on. How is this state of nothing different from a state of something? 

The way I think about it is that getting into a nothing state is a process of tuning in to our most basic processes - the processes which in the beginning were the root of existence. The first cells, the quantum mechanics of the atoms which make up the substances from which our cells are made, the origin of the universe. Thinking is a manifestation of those processes. Nothing is where consciousness harmonises with those processes. Another way of thinking about this is to say that nothing is where energy manifests in its purest state.

The materialism of ordinary existence is the continual making of things around us - that thing which from which we might wish to escape. If nothing is energy in its purest state - a harmony - materialism is disordered energy. Matter is an epiphenomenon of things not being tuned in. I find this a helpful perspective because it sees matter and energy on a continuum - from disorder to deep order. 

Some aspects which we might consider material - for example, crystals or coral - reveal deep order to us. And some aspects of our scientific knowledge give us an insight into the processes of this deep order.  It is what Bohm called the "implicate order".

So to create, we have to become crystalline. Then we can make a start - with a mark.

So what happens then? In making a mark - it could be a line, words, some notes, etc - we start a new continuity. This is something which contains the seeds of its continuation. It takes energy to do this because what the energy must do is make a choice: this is part of the continuity and this isn't. And most continuities created like this quickly exhaust the energy that was the impetus to create them. We run out of steam.

But then the same thing must happen. We have a continuity which exhausts us from which we need to create a clearing. But if you cut a continuity, you create two continuities with nothing in between them. For some reason I find the act of cutting things and creating space between them gives me energy again. I guess if you cut an atom, you get energy. Perhaps cutting a continuity releases the energy inherent in it, and that then feeds a new process of making new marks in the clearing between them. Cutting a continuity creates a dynamic tension between the two parts too.

In this way, creation - like cells - grows from the middle-out. Cuts are made, clearings created, new continuities constructed. But the point of the whole is the creation of nothing. The point of a piece of music is the last note and then the silence. It is the making of a clearing for others. As things grow, nothing can be created not only by cutting and clearing, but by harmonising - which is a form of adding something to create nothing (no harmony is strictly necessary).

What does this all mean? 

Of our many problems, we have an education system which is materialist in its orientation, while it trumpets the virtue of creativity (often in "innovation") without really thinking what this is. Creativity is not "accretion" - it is not the continual adding of new things on top of one another - in the way our journals now work. That just creates noise and is exhausting. 

Creativity is harmonising with the processes of nothing. Some of our technologies are showing us how this principle might work (particularly AI which is a "nothing creating" technology). If we listened to what is happening, what we should do next would become much clearer to us. Perhaps the clearest signal is that learning is not "absorption", but creation. It's not that we learn mathematics, computing, chemistry or art. It is that we learn to generate nothing in the context of mathematics, computing, chemistry and art. 

1 comment:

Unknown said...

This SPEAKS to me so loudly and reinforces WHY I am fascinated in working with children at the cusp of cognition. I witness this kind of creative behaviour continuously with them. It requires entering their space and time - a huge slowing down and quietening down - active observation and listening without being too loud or too fast. With the right ecosystem, the MARK emerges, as if effortlessly but it’s the result of an intense concentration of one’s whole body. It’s so powerful to witness when it happens because human potential is born. However, these children remind me that the ‘work’ is happening continuously whether I’m observing and listening, or not. They are witnesses to their own creativity, and that is enough.