Saturday, July 26, 2008

Everyday Creativity

Hot Book Review by Aryna Ryan

Everyday Creativity and New Views of Human Nature:

Psychological, Social and Spiritual Perspectives

Edited by Ruth Richards

Originally I wanted to read this book because I thought Csikszentmihalyi wrote it. Turns out he supplied only the foreword! As I got into the reading, however, I was very glad I’d ordered this book since I’ve learned an enormous amount about what seem to be very current issues, at least as they pertain to everyday creativity.

Background and Organization of the Book

When Richards was planning a symposium on creativity, she met many researchers who felt that everyday creativity had not been examined enough. The idea to contribute chapters for a book seemed a natural.

The book is divided into a lengthy introduction and three sections:

Creativity and Individuals, with six research articles that explore:

· The definition of everyday creativity (originality which is meaningful) and its potential. “Our creativity may increasingly become a primary driver for much that happens in our world, and with us.” (Richards, p. 11)
· Schuldberg’s argument that chaos theory contributes to our living creatively. He focuses on Somewhat Complicated Systems (SCS), strange attractors and how “we do not give away life’s power, order or beauty when we embrace its inexactness.” (p. 63)
· Zausner’s examination of everyday creativity primarily by looking at how Henri Matisse, Albert Pinkham Ryder, and Maud Lewis creatively coped with illness.
· Runco’s perspective that personal creativity requires discretion and intentions, and “the capacity to construct original interpretations of experience.” (p. 92) He also looked at ego strength as a support for personal expressions of creativity.
· How Pritzker, a writer from The Mary Tyler Moore Show, establishes that creativity does exist on television. He explores passive vs. active viewing, and the therapeutic value of active viewing, which he labels “teletheraphy.”
Combs & Krippner exploration of the historical structures of consciousness and how higher levels open doors of perception and lead to more creativity.
Creativity and Society, with another six research articles that explore:
Another chapter in the story of Darwin’s theory and its implications for creativity. (See further details in “the most interesting part of this book.”)
Our being upright and how this “unsteady platform” (Arons, p. 177) has influenced our development of and capacity for creativity.
Sundararajan & Averill observe how our authentic emotions promote or hinder creativity. Through varying standards of differentiation and involvement, they investigate how cultures differ in their emotional creativity.
Goerner delves into how integral science supports “knowledge ecologies” and “large-scale learning” to achieve a new level of creative development.
How our real world is changing through virtual worlds, especially our “take” on sexuality. “The gap between science fiction and reality seems to be shrinking due to advances in technology.” (Abraham, p. 246)
Eisler’s outline for rethinking human nature in order to build a sustainable future. She looks extensively at the evolution of love. “The evolution of caring, culminating in love, was a prerequisite for our species’ unique capacity for intelligence, symbolic thinking, learning, communication, consciousness, caring, planning, choice, and creativity.” (p. 267)

Integration and Conclusions

This section contains only one article by Richards, “Twelve Potential Benefits of Living More Creatively.” These benefits include:
Dynamic, which describes open systems of complex interacting processes.
Conscious, the opposite of automatic. Work at breaking through filters and be in the state that Csikszentmihalyi calls “flow.”
Healthy, partly by alleviating stress by writing about emotional problems. “Our T cells now endorse this creativity.”
Non-defensive, which is more than simply being positive? It means looking within and facing truth; also looking outside and seeing what society needs.
Open means being receptive to new experiences; in fact, actively seeking them out. It helps us to heal, observe creatively, and appreciate paradoxes.
Integrating begins with humility. It involves all kinds of learning and knowing. We’re facing a paradigm shift brought about by web-based systems and a knowledge ecology model.
Observing actively is possible by being in “flow” (active involvement, challenge, absorption and full engagement).
Caring means learning to connect to the hopeful parts of Darwin’s evolutionary message.
Collaborative means thinking in more systems, ultimately leading to a “society of mind.”
Androgynous is getting to overlap between gendered groups, struggling to be fully ourselves, unencumbered by cultural “dos and don’ts.”
Developing is the unfolding and training of mind and body for health, abstract thinking, problem solving and emotional maturity.
Brave, which is much more than risk-taking. Bravery includes attitude, lifestyle, and commitment. We must have “creative courage.” (p. 311)

The most interesting part of this book: No contest, the part that nearly had me jumping off the bed was from David Loye’s article in the section Creativity and Society. In Telling the New Story: Darwin, Evolution, and Creativity versus Conformity in Science, Loye told how Darwin wrote The Descent of Man after Origin of the Species. In this book (I call it “Darwin—the Sequel”), Darwin outlined the next steps in the evolution of humankind. He explained that we needed to go beyond competition and “survival of the fittest” (a phrase Darwin wished he never used!) towards a moral and cooperative society. Rather than “natural selection, Darwin spoke of making “organic selection,” which means we must choose who and what we will be.
Loye presented many details regarding Darwin’s full evolutionary message was both pre-empted and suppressed by science and society. Loye’s tale simply shows how much of human nature has not evolved!

Book’s relevance to me:

It is incredibly relevant, because everyday creativity is one of the main topics I introduce and encourage in my students. I can use much of the research in this book in my classes, particularly the rest of Darwin’s theory. In fact, I am so excited about this “new” knowledge that in the very near future I plan to offer at least one seminar on the subject.
Further information:


Richards, R. (Ed.). (2007). Everyday creativity and new views of human nature: psychological, social, and spiritual perspectives. Washington, D.C.: American Psychological Association.

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