One of my favorite writers on the psychology of creativity is the author of "Ungifted," Scott Barry Kaufman, whose experience of being marginalized as a boy because of a learning disability opened his eyes to the many ways we know. It's an understanding he puts to good use in adult life as a cognitive scientist.
Entrepreneurs think of failure like others think of learning - Peter Sims, IdeaFestival 2012
This isn't an endorsement of the IdeaFestival, but it might as well be. Think Jar:
To better navigate complexity and spark innovation we need creative problem solving and fresh thinking more than ever. In terms of where to start, you need to begin with your own mind and shake up stiff patterns of thinking first!
Tell all the Truth but tell it slant / Success in Circuit lies - Emily Dickinson, Tell the Truth But Tell it Slant
Using a lovely illustration of Vincent Van Gogh's Starry Night morphing into the Milky Way's magnetic field as viewed by the space observatory, Planck, an article at Universe Today reminded me today of the importance of slant.
What a remarkable coincidence that the observations of our best telescopes peering through hundreds of thousands of light years, even more so, back 13.8 billion years to the beginning of time, reveal images of the Universe that are not unlike the brilliant and beautiful paintings of a human with a mind that gave him no choice but to see the world differently.
There is, of course, no direct connection between his work and subsequent discoveries. Vincent van Gogh did not have the benefit of 21st century astronomics. Nor did he appear enjoy good health. But Universe Today helpfully reminded me that art has eyes too, that the impressionists of his time bravely painted - and were roundly criticized for their efforts - a world not directly accessible to them. Nothing's changed. What's real are the uncountable photons emptying into your corneal pools right now, the reflection of the screen on which the words to this blog post are appearing. Having been electrified by that Brownian energy, our brains impose sense - they select for meaning - on the physical world of which we're a part. Like Van Gogh, we are not mere ordinators endlessly wading through an infinite data set, but metaphorical beings capable of transcending the moment, of inferring and analogizing, of carefully attending to the subjects of our mind's choosing.
There is an obvious follow up question that I'll leave to you.
Slant, however, that fantastic, uniquely human ability to move between silos - slant is what the IdeaFestival does. Using his imaginative faculty and a technique that left the so-called realists aghast, Van Gogh painted a Milky Way that he could scarcely know.
Starry nights can be yours too. But first you must stay curious.
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Image: Geoff Oliver Bugbee
Found at Maria Popova's Brain Pickings Web site, this video condenses - she worries, reducts - some of the most interesting ideas from the famous cosmologist Stephen Hawkings.
Illustrations such as these are harmless in the sense that only the tiniest group of our number will ever understand the phenomenon described anyway - I'm actually insanely jealous - and then only through the symbolism of the mathematics. Observational support for Hawking radiation, one of the phenomena described in the video, is elusive, with the Wikipedia entry suggesting that the study of analogs in nature may have to substitute for the real thing.
Explanations like these "commodify wisdom" out of necessity, of course, but also in the sense that much human understanding is derived from analogs anyway. Yes, experimental science offers us direct access the nature, but there are whole swaths of the human experience cannot be understood execept thought metaphor. This is like that, and that, like something else.
Until then, if then, we can only admire chalkboards, translations of a translation, and take satisfaction that something incomprehensible there surely breathes.