Correspondence #27, To my Alien Friend, on Creativity

Dear friend,

I hope this letter finds you well, I know in the past this has been quite difficult — them having to travel such long distances. From your last letter, it has become apparent that you wish to learn more about our species. While unfortunately, it is impossible to convey to you every aspect of our complex people, I will lend you an explanation of one of our foremost defining characteristics: creativity. 

Creativity, however, even more so than other human phenomena, is quite difficult to define. Any effort to explain it to you reminds me of a paradox I came across a while ago pertaining to color: if, say, we were in the same room looking at a strawberry, we might both agree that it is red. However, there is no way to be sure that the red you are experiencing is the same as mine. Sure, we can measure the wavelength of light, agree on its reading of approximately 645 nm, but the qualia that manifests from the object itself may as well be what I experience as green for you, and what you experience as blue for me! I for one can not explain color to a blind person well enough to have the sensation lit up inside of them, like with other phenomena and concepts.

Daniel Dennett, one of the many philosophers among us humans, argues that in fact, the reason I can not do so is merely a failure of our current languages, and that, given millions and billions of words arranged in just the right way, one indeed could explain and describe color to someone with no sight as to cause the internal phenomenon within them.

I believe Creativity is similar in scope. Below I have outlined a variety of different angles with which to try to explain to you what it is precisely. There is no one definition, and there is no one shared experience of what it is, but my hope is that using as much breadth and variety as I can muster, you will be able to conceptualize what it is the phenomenon of creativity is, you being blind to the concept.

Creativity, at its core, is creation. It is making alive what was not before. In this way, creativity is a giving birth to, bringing into the world what was not present prior. To be creative, like birth, is to make something from nothing. Creativity is the making of anew, the process of animation.

Many of us refer to creativity in relation to the nature of something, often the mind of a human. In this way, creativity is the birthing of an idea. Obviously, human minds are full of existing ideas swirling about within. Oftentimes fragments of these ideas make their way into new ones the mind generates, many times being altered in the process. To be sure — this is still creativity. The ‘nothing’ from which ‘something’ appears is in reference to the nonexistence of its integrated whole prior to its creation, not the ingredients of its composition. As long as this new idea, even if given birth to outside of a pure vacuum, is distinct and original, it is to be considered creative. And yes, before you ask, the line for this get’s blurry, we have an entire field of Law dedicated to its enforcement…

 In this way, creativity is a spontaneous collision. It is connection, overlap, confluence, a nexus. Creativity is more a matter of ‘and,’ than it is a matter of ‘if,’ ‘or,’ or ‘but.’ Especially, though in no way limited to, ideas, creativity in this way is a quasi-combinatorial phenomenon whereby addition yields something altogether unfamiliar. It is an emergent phenomenon whose integrated whole can not be fully understood through even the most rigorous analysis of its components. Thus, and this is important, creativity does not follow rationality or logic. In fact, creativity is entirely a-logical, and does not follow logical rules — this is a core tenet. To be creative is to create against logical paradigms. 

Thus creativity is entirely a paradoxical phenomenon, and this is key to understanding the depths of its complexity. Creativity can be observed, but can not be explained. Humans may exhibit varying levels of creativity, though it is impossible to measure creativity accurately. There is always a need for creativity among humans, yet the more creativity is collectively exhibited, the more innovations and insight that such a creativity propels, the more it increases the need for more creative creations. Creativity is a paradox, yet it exists, and this is central to creativity as a phenomenon. (This is also central for your understanding, as it is ‘impossible,’ though I am attempting to do so, to explain an a-logical phenomenon logically.) In this way, creativity is magic. Like the magician, creativity makes appear what was not able to be observed prior, with no rational or apparent explanation. 

Creativity is entropy. Is it the interruption of stasis, the tumbling of the stable and sound. Creativity is a disrupting phenomenon, one which necessarily, in its newness, clashes with the current way of things. Generally speaking, the greater this collision is, the greater the ‘clash,’ with the now is, the more creative an act will be. Creativity is uncertainty and discomfort. It is a recognition that any future creation is unknowable in its content. Creativity is destruction, an explosion of the present. Creativity, like entropy in the second law of thermodynamics, is what our system will tend towards, and in fact, these two phenomena are linked.

The universe, tending towards entropy, will pose humanity with problems. Murphy’s law states that anything that can go wrong, will go wrong. Our planet as it stands is slotted to rise in temperature at unprecedented rates. Our geopolitical paradigm is on the verge of being stressed more than it has been in the past decade. A global pandemic has befallen us. Creativity is survival. It is the only way that we humans may continue to thrive as we have thus far, and is in fact the main reason for our proliferation. Creativity is persistence, a willingness to go further. Creativity is the mechanism by which humanity solves the problems posed by its own existence, in order to keep existing. Thus creativity solves the problem of life by bringing into life.

Creativity is a leap of consciousness. It is a change in perspective, a shift in the viewpoint. Creativity is first a recognition that one’s current existence is bound by the rules and logic in which one finds themselves, and then secondly, the ability to alter or reject them. Creativity is a recognition that one’s field of view is just that — a field of view, able to be turned, shifted, magnified, compressed, and/or re-focused. Creativity is confidence in one’s own strange thinking. Creativity asks the unaskable, looks down at the floor of consciousness — that which holds atop it every other aspect of one’s sense of being — and interrogates its very existence and form.

Paradoxically creativity is also empathy, an openness to others’ shift in viewpoint. Creativity is a willingness to be wrong, to accept an alternate reality, to be convinced. It is a certain plasticity of the mind, able to be dynamically remolded and resolidified over and over again. 

Further, creativity is thought. Creativity is to question, to interpret, to opinionate, to decipher, to be human. The human experience, human perception, is a sort of ongoing birth. To perceive as a human is to be in a constant state of interpretation, of making meaning from the meaninglessness of the world — to create, to give birth to, a constant unfolding. To be human is to be creative. 

Creativity is free will. It is the power to choose, and the process of choice itself. In this way creativity opens up the future before us, allowing for any number of creative pathways and futures to form in its unknowability. Creativity is an infinite possibility, a hope.

And perhaps, friend, in this way, if you might be able to grasp my conception of creativity as I have not so much outlined, but danced around, you too may exhibit it. Creativity is at the very roots of our being, it is birth, it is life, it is destruction, it is death. If you may be able to absorb what I have written, surely you have a better understanding of what it means to be human than do any other of your people.

Sincerely, and until next time,

-Armaan A.

Using Format