Wednesday, October 27, 2010

pondering words and pictures on a Wednesday morning

a window in The Cathedral Church of Saint John the Divine

"[Florida's] contribution is to update our view of these mini-Einsteins by taking a pop-existentialist view of their "creativity". It is a view that is familiar to most of us from kindergarten: creativity is a mysterious  capacity that lies in each of us and merely needs to be "unleashed" (think finger painting). Creativity is what happens when people are liberated from the contraints of conventionality. According to this hippie theory, the personal grooming habits of Albert Einstein are highly significant - how else does one identify as "bizarre maverick operating at the bohemian fringe?"

The truth, of course, is that creativity is a by-product of mastery of the sort that is cultivated through long practice. It seems to be built up through submission (think musician practicing scales, or Einstein learning tensor algebra). Identifying creativity with freedom harmonizes quite well with the culture of the new capitalism in which the imperative of flexibility precludes dwelling in any task long enough to develop real competence. Such competence is the condition not only of genuine creativity but for economic independence such as the tradesman enjoys. 

So the liberationists' ethic of what is sometimes called "the 1968 generation"  perhaps paved the way for our increasing dependence. We're primed to respond to any invocation of the aesthetics of individuality . The rhetoric of freedom pleases our ears. The simulacrum of independent thought and action that goes by the name of "creativity" trips so easily off the tongues of spokespeople for the corporate counter-culture, and if we're not paying attention such usage might influence our career pans. The term invokes our powerful tendency to narcissism and in doing so greases the skids into work that is not what we had hoped."

-- from  Shop Class as Soulcraft: An Inquiry into the Value of Work  by Matthew B. Crawford 

Linked to Lovely Photo Wednesday.
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