This post is the second in a series. You can go back to part one first if you like.
Art: A Lost Art?
The State of Art
Since that visit with my dear teacher I’ve become more interested in observing the general state of art and creativity, and recently I’ve been reading up on it.
I’d like to direct your reading eyes and thinking minds toward an article, from Newsweek, called “The Creativity Crisis”, which takes a psychological approach to creativity. In fact, it tries to quantify it. It seems that Americans (and perhaps, by extension, North Americans? Westerners? Humanity?) are getting less creative over time:
Like intelligence tests, … [this] 90-minute series of discrete tasks, administered by a psychologist—has been taken by millions worldwide in 50 languages. Yet there is one crucial difference between IQ [“intelligence quotient”] and CQ [“creativity quotient”] scores. With intelligence, there is a phenomenon called the Flynn effect—each generation, scores go up about 10 points. Enriched environments are making kids smarter. With creativity, a reverse trend has just been identified and is being reported for the first time here: American creativity scores are falling.
I am not convinced that creativity is dying out, but I have no doubt that it is being stifled by a number of factors. I believe creativity can be fostered and developed in everyone, at any point in their life. Still, “the potential consequences [of diminished creativity] are sweeping”.
To no one’s surprise, the article cites TV and video games as culprits. I do think there is truth in this, but we ought to keep in mind that it is the content, not the medium, that is ultimately responsible. We discussed this a little while ago.
Another noteworthy point is this:
The age-old belief that the arts have a special claim to creativity is unfounded. When scholars gave creativity tasks to both engineering majors and music majors, their scores laid down on an identical spectrum, with the same high averages and standard deviations. Inside their brains, the same thing was happening—ideas were being generated and evaluated on the fly.
The article goes on to discuss the differing educational systems of certain parts of the world and their approaches to creativity, and later how psychological knowledge (having to do with left- and right-brain activity) can be applied to increase creativity, particularly in elementary education. It also discussed types of creative play that children naturally engage in at different ages.
Art Comes From Life, and Life is Tough
A final quote from that article:
…highly creative adults frequently grew up with hardship. Hardship by itself doesn’t lead to creativity, but it does force kids to become more flexible—and flexibility helps with creativity.
Freud said that art was a product of traumatic experience (thank you, Cultural Studies 100). I’m don’t entirely concur, because I think there is more to it than that, yet the thought struck a chord with me. Clichéd as it might sound, I know I write my best poetry when I’m emotionally conflicted or otherwise melancholy. On the other hand, that’s not when I do my best calligraphy or drawing.
The benefits of experiencing a reasonable amount of hardship are manifold; we learn resourcefulness, adaptability, acceptance of whatever the universe has planned for us, and gratitude for whatever we do have. ‘Abdu’l-Bahá says:
Give them [children] the advantage of every useful kind of knowledge. Let them share in every new and rare and wondrous craft and art. Bring them up to work and strive, and accustom them to hardship. Teach them to dedicate their lives to matters of great import, and inspire them to undertake studies that will benefit mankind.
I love that quotation, and it’s pertinent: it links hardship to art, and both of those to refinement of character and contribution to the world.
With that I bid you farewell for today.
Go back to part one .
Go on to part three.