To paraphrase: Intelligence is a kind of mental alertness, which is in essence a sort of perception. It is flashes of insight which are not merely a product of memory and training because in each case we have to see anew. It is an act of perception in the mind but is also of the senses, aesthetic, and emotional. It does not arise primarily out of thought.
“One prerequisite for originality is clearly that a person shall not be inclined to impose his preconceptions on the fact as he sees it. Rather, he must be able to learn something new, even if this means that the ideas and notions that are comfortable or dear to him may be overturned…It is impossible to overemphasize the significance of this kind of learning in every phase of life, and the importance of giving the action of learning itself top priority, ahead of the specific content of what is to be learned. For the action of learning is the essence of real perception, in the sense that without it a person is unable to see, in any new situation, what is fact and what is not…
…One thing that prevents us from thus giving primary emphasis to the perception of what is new and different is that we are afraid to make mistakes. From early childhood, one is taught to maintain the image of “self” or “ego” as essentially perfect. Each mistake seems to reveal that one is an inferior sort of being, who will therefore, in some way, not be fully accepted by others…Such a fear of making a mistake is added to one’s habit of mechanical perception in terms of preconceived ideas and learning only for specific utilitarians purposes. All of these combine to make a person who cannon perceive what is new and who is therefore mediocre rather than original.”
~David Bohm, On Creativity
Go buy this book and read it if you’re at all interested in the creative process. His observations apply to the entire spectrum of creative activity, from scientists to artists.
There is a desert, and in the midst of that desolation stand ambitious men.
Long ago, Nimrod – a mighty warrior and king of the desert – desired a place as a god. He said to his people, “Come, let us make a name for ourselves, and let us build a tower with its top in the heavens lest we be dispersed and forgotten.” So they began construction on a spire that would prick the heavens.
Then the LORD descended in radiant theophany and twisted their tongues in His displeasure. Men who had once been allies were torn apart by the confusion of their languages and dispersed throughout the wasteland. Thus the place was called Babel, and its ruins still lie on the plains of Shinar, populated only by the owls and hyenas.
Nimrod’s nation was scattered, but his vision lingered on, gnawing at the imaginations of generation after generation. Constantly his children roam, splintering according to language and culture, coalescing, and then fracturing again. They build ceaselessly but leave behind only a trail of crumbling monoliths beneath the cold light of the moon.
After a time, the LORD sent his Son to pave the Way through the desert to the holy city of Zion. He adopted countless descendants of Nimrod and gave them a mighty gift. The very Spirit that had first confused language would now give men one voice and the Word to speak.
Nimrod’s offspring still apply all of their might to building towers of steel and glass. But the children of the Lord live in the sand, making their slow pilgrimage along the Way and singing of Zion. Their chorus is the unified voice of the faithful proclaiming:
No eye has seen and no mind has conceived the full glory of Zion, but in everything are signs and signifiers.
I wrote the above narrative in place of an artist’s statement for the body of work on display tonight. You can find images of the artwork on my website.
T. S. Eliot had a theory about poetry, which he explained in an essay called Tradition and the Individual Talent. “Most of us,” Eliot wrote, “think of poets as people who express their feelings in verse.” He thought poetry was stranger than that. As Eliot saw it, poets were less like people and more like laboratories. “The poet has, not a ‘personality’ to express,” he wrote, “but a particular medium . . . in which impressions and experiences combine in peculiar and unexpected ways.” Within this medium, ordinary emotions are compressed together until they produce an “art emotion”—an emotion that doesn’t exist in ordinary life, and is available only through the poem. That’s the whole point of poetry: while we’re under its spell, we’re not ourselves, or anyone; we feel things no ordinary person feels. “Poetry is not a turning loose of emotion, but an escape from emotion; it is not the expression of personality, but an escape from personality,” he concluded.
The above is quoted from a New Yorker article.