The other night, I went to Herbst Theatre to check out the City Arts & Lectures: On Art & Politics series ~ Jonah Lehrer in conversation with Dan Schifrin. Aside from learning Jonah Lehrer is quite good-looking in person (he really does look like his photographs!), he told some really engaging stories about creativity in the post modern world. Here are some of the more interesting aspects of the evening (and based on his current book, Imagine: How Creativity Works):
- Brainstorming is bunk! – I agree. I love the idea of good debate where folks challenge one another!
- Alpha Waves help modulate the mind – Keeping the balance between the two hemispheres
- Swings of mental state – Being in a happy mood, we are able to solve puzzles BUT when sad/depressed, we tend to solve problems. It is definitely important to accept that there are times we’re going to feel sad and depressed. Quite Zen and Buddhist, I like it!
Below are some of the interesting questions Lehrer answered during the Q&A session followed by my interpretation and 2 cents on his answer.
Does the political process get in the way of creativity?
Ha ha. I loved that someone asked this question. I know when I think of creativity in politics, my view is quite biased and slanted. If there is any creativity, it probably has a lot to do with skewing perspectives and viewpoints and playing around with statistics to sway the public. Lehrer provided a much more robust answer, most definitely. He mentioned looking at “ages of excess genius” (i.e., Elizabethan England, Athens, etc.). He noted a primary theme during these times in history was this vast expansion of human capital through education. The 21st century genius is one of physicality. We reward this physical genius and encourage it while not encouraging other facets of human growth and development. Lehrer expressed a profound wish to see that type of investment and transfer of skills to the arts and sciences! YES! AGREED!!!
Lehrer addressed a question that involved his perceptions of the two traditions of therapy, 1) Psychoanalytic vs. 2) Cognitive Behavioral Therapy?
I liked that he answered the question stating that it wholly depends on the state of the patient and their need to know and wish to have or meet a specific stream of associations. Although many HMOs want people to go to psychotherapy, he believes that individuals have different needs. In regard to creativity and the different types of therapies, it all goes back to the patient, which is something I agree with. There definitely are instances where a specific type of personality requires an alternative therapeutic method. My take on his answer: the therapist would must engage in a creative approach when it comes to mental health and care of the patient.
Related to the question above, an audience member asked about anti-depressants and its impact on creativity?
Lehrer was honest and said he didn’t really know how to answer this specific question. However, he provided the insight that sadness is also a type of thinking! He reminded us that our culture has a tendency to ‘valorize positive emotions’ but there is value in sadness. Going on, he remarked that Aristotle and the Romantics (sounds like a great band name actually!) appreciated sadness and embraced it. When he said this, it totally reminded me of the Buddhist concept of 1000 Joys and 1000 Sorrows.
How has your creative process change after writing these three books?
He was rather enthusiastic in sharing that after writing these books, he is more likely to follow his gut. Whether it’s going for a hike, taking a break, “wasting” some time, it’s necessary to disconnect and not push it. He also noted that people with diverse social networks experience more creativity and innovation in their processes. One of my FAVORITE things he said, which is something I think I do pretty well ~ ask questions! Engaging in dialogue is IMPORTANT. THANK YOU JONAH LEHRER!!!
How do you feel about Information Overload?
One of my favorites from the evening: Struggle to daydream! He made mention of ‘punctuated daydreaming and plugging back into the network’ and how real world connections are STILL important to our growth and development as people, a society, and culture. Personally, this is what I’ve ALWAYS loved about the arts. Art ought to be experienced and discussed and although there are a variety of ways to experience art and look at it online (i.e., Google Art Project, s[edition], kapsul, etc.], people need to make an earnest effort at disconnecting in order to connect in the real (physical) world.
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Now, as much as I enjoyed the evening and absolutely agreed with diversifying one’s network (this is pretty much common sense if you want to make it in the world, especially in this age, you NEED to connect and collaborate) and appreciated his examples on how different levels of creativity can influence and impact cognitive processes, I noticed something. I shouldn’t have been surprised by this but when the house lights were turned on for the Q&A portion of the talk, I looked around and the majority of people were white. I BARELY see people of color at events like this. I’m hoping we can instill the need for narratives and experiences across cultures and people to younger generations.
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