Monday, November 22, 2010

Structure and Creativity

Recently Jon Stewart did an interview on Fresh Air. Talking about the “Rally To Restore Sanity” he referred to the rally as a beautiful “format”, an “outline that could be filled”, as though it was a drawing. He referred to “The Daily Show” as first and foremost a structure. A structure with a composition, a set of segments that could be used for whatever was currently important. These metaphors emphasize organization as visual structure. Every area of life could be organized more artfully, which could open more areas to creativity. It wasn’t until I had the format of this blog that I could release the ideas unfolding here. They were roiling around in my head but resisted being locked into a specific book, which would have restricted their scope. Applying a point of view and personal philosophy to what seems important at the time of writing keeps it tied in to the rest of my life. A good structure releases creativity on a whole new level. The brain’s reward system loves the prefrontal cortex, the newest evolutionary level, where imagination and analysis work together, finding connections and correlations. The use of our highest powers stimulates the pleasure system, which pushes ideas and invention even further.
People are unhappy and dulled when they aren’t making use of what they can do. The life-force wants to bloom, for us to extend our capability. Stewart’s emphasis on the program’s structure points out the freedom afforded by working with a preset format. The personality and character of a TV show is created by starting with an idea translated into a format, a composition, then within each segment anything can happen.
The consistent form with specific proportions is evidence of a visual component to any structuring. Just recently someone on the radio was talking about the need for a multi-disciplinary structure to look at climate change saying “We do it in a dry journalistic format when maybe a picture would suffice.” Paolo Soleri was an ecological consciousness decades ahead of his time, designing whole communities as integrated wholes. He felt we needed to re-envision our whole strategy for civilization. “Rather than a mad prophet ranting in the wilderness, Soleri has proved to be a voice of reason.” as the Guardian wrote not that long ago, “Nobody wanted to hear his diagnosis of the ills of US society, but it has been proved right - the car-centric, inefficient, horizontal suburban model has left us in poor shape to cope with climate-change problems.” In science beauty is the guide to a good theory. Our inherent aesthetic sense could guide us to a more beautifully functioning whole. Artist Mel Chin shows us an aesthetic for healing the wounds of the planet. Using plants that are hyperaccumulators to leach heavy metals from the soil he created a living mandala to focus our attention on what is possible. It’s time to heal the disharmony in the United States by creating a well-composed format for considering all problems in relation to the dynamics of the whole. Where proportions are ugly, the solution is wrong. We’d avoid all kinds of damage if we used this basic human capacity.

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