Saturday, 20 December 2008

Creativity in Nature

I was mildly surprised at how little was found when I typed this into Google. My reasoning behind writing the title of this blog was the question of whether Nature is inherently creative. Can the concept of Nature being creative be held as different to the creativity that we humans define as creativity? Trees don't go around making pots out of clay and blackbirds don't write novels so perhaps we have to change our perception of what creativity could means in this context. By Nature I mean the non-human component of the natural environment around us. There is clearly creativity in diversity, in species, in habitats etc. but is this inherent to the basic evolutionary (or whatever) process or is there a fundamental consciousness within it that 'creates' and, if so, what does it create? Just as we might decide to go out to paint a picture, if a tree decided it wanted to be creative, what would it do?

My thoughts began on this subject when I was reflecting on an experience I had a few weeks ago. I was lying in bed with a juicy cold/flu type thing in a state of complete inability to summon up any energy to anything but doze. For a few moments I began to reflect on a place in the countryside I had been to in the summer and which had inspired quite a long blog. In my mind I then started to create a quite long and detailed poem or piece of prose that seemed like a complete revelation of inspiration. As I was half asleep I had no inclination to try and remember it or and write it down so I had to just enjoy the fleeting experience. What I think surprised me how it seemed as though perhaps my conscious mind tapped into a latent part of my unconscious to break through a barrier of creativity and release something of beauty and meaning. This has then now led me to wonder if I can regain this level of being creative so freely, how can I be more creative, and can I learn about creativity from the natural world around me?

I have always struggled with developing my creative skills. I feel there is a barrier that I have to cross and I can never quite identify it further than a "I don't know what to do" type of thing. I have read numerous books on the subject and should really read them again. The more I read, the more things seem to fit into a more holistic framework, and I like holistic frameworks. For example, I have always known I was more of a visual learner, and my NLP course has now helped to focus that in a more positive way. Perhaps I need to get my sketchbook out more again and develop a more mind-mapping, visual type of creative expression. I know I have thought this before, but as I need to be hugely creative at work and I want to be creative for my blog and my family I feel I have to do something.

  • How can I use Nature to stimulate my own creativity?

  • Do I fear the creative process because I am worried about an inability to produce things people will like?

  • What unconscious barriers might there be that I need to try and break down in order to release personal creativity?

  • What does Nature create if it is 'creative'?

Is there a subconscious connection of my creativity to any 'creativity' that may be inherently part of Nature? From the spiritual point of view there has to be - if you feel there is an 'other' part of you that connects to the natural environment, then there should bea connecting of energy, soul, spirit or whatever you want to call it.

I mentioned the fact that trees and blackbirds may not creative as we might define it, but I wonder how they could be if they indeed are? Blackbirds adapt their external environments by making nests and thus exhibit the ability to take objects around them and make something of use. Craftsbirds you could call them. Is a tree creative? Well, the fact that a deciduous tree undergoes a huge transformation each year to cloth itself in leaves is a great creative undertaking. It may be just a biological necessity to our eyes, but it is all about taking resources and making something new. When plants adapt to and colonise a new piece of ground they are creating a new environment, new ecological niches, new colours, new biomass, new microclimates and so much more. Are they acting independently from each other or is there a deeper something that is energizing and awakening the situation?

It is an interesting area to think about and I will probably return to it.

Further notes made whilst on a bike ride the next day

Organic natural creativity is found in nature (possibly without man). How does this compare to production uniformity that characterises man's evolution in the past 100 years or so?

The act of creating is constant in Nature. It is always in a state of change with continuous cycles of birth, growth, reproduction, death and decay. Is this comparable with how it evolves?

All living things are different even at a species level (Amoeba even?). Every tree trunk is unique like a fingerprint, and every leaf is different in how it grows and orientates itself on a twig to gain maximum potential for photosynthesis.

To create is an organic process - always changing.

Is the process of life just a process of creation? Of new beginnings, always moving on, adapting to new situations and always changing. I am sitting in the sunshine, in a cool breeze on a rather warm mid-December day amongst some trees. Even in the depths of winter the process of creation is going on all around me, much of it not on a timescale that I am usually thinking about. Leaves are decaying to form new top soil; seeds are lying dormant in the soil but being subject to temperature changes that will cause enzyme or hormonal changes within them to encourage them to germinate in the spring; new buds are forming on branches; and the wind brings changes in temperature and humidity. I happened to notice some concentric rings in the bark on the trunk of a tree and I should have taken a photograph of the. They reminded of the act of creation, something small, growing and radiating outwards, like the ripples on a pond - the creation affecting the world around it.

Does a tree "know" that the leaves it bore all through the summer are now decaying around it to form humous and the habitat for organisms that will benefit the tree's growth?

Does a creative process always bring about growth?

For Nature, creation is the art of survival. It is how it moves forwards in evolutionary terms. But for Man, have we moved on from this? Creation for many of us is no longer about making tools to kill out food or to weave rugs to keep us warm in the winter. Creation has become the making of aesthetic things - we have moved it to another level because our basic needs have been satisfied. Survival has been taken care of. We have a large enough population to enable us to achieve different levels of creativity.

Creation is about gathering resources for expansion. You cannot create out of nothing, there is always something behind it, even if just energy. A song we sing is only made possible by the food we have eaten. At a universal scale you could say that even our ultimate beginnings had to be made out of something.

How does man manipulate or change Nature's creativity? What about cutting down rainforests, mowing a lawn or Genetically Modified crops? Are they interfering with the natural processes of the continuation and evolution of life?

What do we seek when we try to be creative? What needs are we meeting within our selves? Is it an attempt to tap into the connection with nature we so dearly need? What is the difference here therefore between painting a beautiful landscape and designing a new oil refinery? Does it matter what we put our creative energy into?

Sunday, 14 December 2008

Drum Making

It has been a strange autumn for me, and one that makes me feel as though I have lost my way rather too much. What with having been very busy at work, having had several nasty cold bugs, having the feeling that I've been lacking any useful creative stimulation and also the feeling of being on a bit of an emotional low, I have felt quite miserable! I am sure the lack of daylight, fresh air and decent exercise hasn't helped. I am determined to pull out of it and I am looking forward to a break over Christmas in just over a week. As I am sure I keep on saying, trying to be a spiritual and balanced person is actually hard work. If I don't apply mental energy to it then I just drift off into nothingness!

Drum Making
Last weekend I, and around 20 other people, attended a Drum making day with the Dartmoor musicians Carolyn Hillyer and Nigel Shaw in Hitchin. I had always wanted to do something like this and it was a special treat to myself.

We started off with a 16" diameter circular frame of laminated wood which we sanded down and added some wood stain and a small painted icon/image of our choice on the inside edge. A smaller metal ring was wound with black cloth and then attached to the inside of the frame. The skins we were using were from Red Deer and had been soaked in water prior to our using them. The circular piece of skin was hole punched round the edge and then the wooden ring laid on top. The skin was then pulled round over the frame and strung to the metal ring with a long piece of thin skin. This was progressively tightened until the right tension for the drum reached. A handle was finally added to the metal ring at the back of the drum. In the photo you can see that I have the inner ring a little off centre, but it doesn't matter. I'll know how to get it right if I ever make another. A beater was made with a hazel stick, on the end of which was tied a piece of chamois leather stuffed with wool.

I have no real idea how and when I shall use it, but it was a great thing to make. It took almost all day to make and I really enjoyed the experience. Nigel and Carolyn gave a concert in the evening which made a great end to the day.

The drum has now been sitting at home for a week and has dried out well. I am amazed at the quality and beauty of the sound that I can get out of it. Even just playing it with a gentle tapping with the drum held close to the ear reveals different tones and harmonics over different parts of the drum.