“Imagination…discovers the real.”
Augusta Ada, Countess of Lovelace, was a daughter of poet Lord Byron, and worked with polymath Charles Babbage, who called her The Enchantress of Numbers.
The computer language ADA was named after her, in recognition of her work that helped originate software and computers.
Ada Lovelace talked about her passions for creative imagination and math:
“Imagination is the Discovering Faculty, pre-eminently … It is that which feels & discovers what is, the REAL which we see not, which exists not for our senses.
Creative thinking involves dual and often opposing qualities such as convergence and divergence, control and abandon, order and disorder, certainty and uncertainty.
A symposium last year brought together researchers from UCLA’s Semel Institute for Neuroscience and Human Behavior with eminent Buddhist scholars for a “two-hour conversation about their distinctive yet complementary understandings of compassion, creativity, mental flexibility and attention, as well as the role mindfulness meditation may play in cultivating these qualities.”
Lucid dreaming is the experience of being aware that you are dreaming, and even being able to control the dream.
In her post Inception’s Dream Science: Fact or Fiction? dream researcher Deirdre Barrett writes about Christopher Nolan’s 2010 film and some of its premises about dreams.
Barrett says “It is possible to influence your dreams by a technique psychologists call ‘dream incubation.’ Breakthrough dreams – where a writer dreams the plot of a novel or a scientist dreams a formula or someone just has a major insight about their personal life – these can happen spontaneously, but you greatly increase their probability by specific requests of your dreaming mind.”
She describes dream incubation in detail in her book “The Committee of Sleep”, and summarizes the technique: “If you want to dream about a particular person, or topic or problem, you should think about the topic once you are in bed, and form an image of that topic–because dreams are so very visual–and let it be the last thing in your mind before falling asleep.”
The movie “Inception” does not really show the behavior of experienced lucid dreamers in her research, she says; for example, characters in the movie “continued to laboriously climb a cliff with a rope even once they knew it was a dream.”
Do we need to invest exceptional levels of time and attention in becoming experts before we can make significant creative contributions?
One of the key ideas of author Malcolm Gladwell is that “outliers” on the upper end of intelligence, ability and achievement have engaged in about 10,000 concentrated hours of practice and study in a specific knowledge area.
From my post Outliers and developing exceptional abilities.
Malcolm Gladwell is author of Outliers: The Story of Success.
But a new article by entrepreneur and philanthropist Naveen Jain, the founder of World Innovation Institute (among other credits) writes that while this may be “an interesting thesis” and perhaps true earlier, it may not apply “in today’s world of growing exponential technologies.”
Getting flashes of creative insight or inspiration can solve real problems. But be wary of thinking you have to wait for them to be creative.
Psychologist R. Keith Sawyer says creativity researchers refer to “the three Bs—for the bathtub, the bed and the bus—places where ideas have famously and suddenly emerged.”
The photo shows an un-corrected Hubble telescope image at the left, next to an image at the right made with corrected optics.
Sawyer explained in a magazine article that in 1990 a team of NASA scientists “was trying to fix the distorted lenses in the Hubble telescope, which was already in orbit. An expert in optics suggested that tiny inversely distorted mirrors could correct the images, but nobody could figure out how to fit them into the hard-to-reach space inside.
“Art is a marriage of the conscious and the unconscious.” Jean Cocteau
How much of creative inspiration and problem solving is from our unconscious, and how can we get more in touch with our vast inner landscape?
This famous “Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer I” is a 1907 painting by Gustav Klimt.
In his book “The Age of Insight: The Quest to Understand the Unconscious in Art, Mind, and Brain, from Vienna 1900 to the Present,” Nobel Prize winner psychiatrist Eric R. Kandel notes that Klimt historians Sophie Lillie and Georg Gaugusch commented about the painting that it “appears a compelling visual expression of Freud’s theory that emotions buried in the subconscious rise to the surface in disguised form.”
In another passage, Kandel writes, “Like other modern artists faced with the advent of photography, Klimt sought newer truths that could not be captured by the camera.
“He, and particularly his younger protégés Oskar Kokoschka and Egon Schiele, turned the artist’s view inward — away from the three-dimensional outside world and toward the multidimensional inner self and the unconscious mind.”
A profile described how artist Maggie Taylor works:
“Using 19th century tin-types, photographs, and images, she scanned them on a flatbed scanner. She then combines them with some other images that she photographed, acquired, or other objects that she scanned. These images are then composed, combined, and colorized by using the Adobe Photoshop program. In a typical image composed by Taylor, there can be as many as 40-60+ layers.
It’s a word that has a wide range of associations, including some pretty negative or dismissive ones.
Many people connect “psychic” with storefront charlatans and stage performers. The Wikipedia page defines a psychic, also called a sensitive, as a person “who professes an ability to perceive information hidden from the normal senses.”
But the page also notes a 1988 report by the U.S. National Academy of Sciences concluded there is “no scientific justification from research conducted over a period of 130 years for the existence of parapsychological phenomena.”
I don’t have any particular psychic ability, but am fascinated by it, and appreciate the more sympathetic depictions in movies such as “Hereafter” directed by Clint Eastwood, starring Cécile De France and Matt Damon as a professional psychic.
In our interview, Judith Orloff, MD noted she had intuitive capacities at an early age, but her family did not encourage her to develop her psychic abilities. She is now integrating these talents with traditional medicine, and is an assistant clinical professor of psychiatry at UCLA, and also has a private practice and leads workshops on intuitive ability and healing.
One of the enduring ideas about creative expression is that it comes from sparks of inspiration out of our unconscious, breaking through to awareness.
A related idea is that creative “geniuses” like Mozart freely “channel” finished or almost finished notable work, that mere mortals like the rest of us can’t possibly hope to do.
But New York Times op-ed writer David Brooks has pointed out, “His early compositions were nothing special. They were pastiches of other people’s work. Mozart was a good musician at an early age, but he would not stand out among today’s top child-performers.”
[Brooks is also quoted in my earlier post Practice, Practice, Practice.]
Artists themselves may promote myths.
Samuel Taylor Coleridge (photo; 1772–1834) is probably best known for his poems The Rime of the Ancient Mariner and Kubla Khan. He claimed in a preface to the latter, that the poem came to him in a dream during a nap, and he simply wrote down the entire finished work.
We all have hidden or shadow aspects of our minds, and actors and other artists may have a greater appreciation for the unconscious, and more actively make use of those depths.
An NPR interview reported that actress Lili Taylor (photo) “is particularly influenced by the work of Carl Jung. A founding father of modern psychology, Jung developed the theory of the collective unconscious, and proposed the existence of archetypal patterns that help shape personality.
“Taylor says she sometimes finds it helpful to think in terms of Jungian archetypes when she begins working on a part: ‘It’s another way of helping getting in there, because I have a whole wealth of literature to turn to if I have come up with the trickster, the villain or the great mother or the nag or whatever.’”