Yesterday I received a visit from the local supervisor for my home health care service who, in the course of my re-certification interview, announced she was returning to her hometown of Abilene TX. It was the last time I would see her, and our visit ranged a little far afield from our primary business at hand and into the personal.
What could be more personal than “When was your last bowel movement?” you may ask? The answer for me is the Meaning-of-Life.
My health has been uncertain for more than a decade, ever since I suffered a heart attack and small stroke when I lived in Marathon. I have had two strokes since then, the last one threatening my ability to remain at Estrella Vista. Yet I am still here, much improved since the days two years ago when all I could literally manage in a day was to feed the chickens (with the assistance of a walker) and empty my bowels. Two days ago, I took a long hike on the property, cane in hand, and explored deep arroyos that could only be accessed by scaling steep terrain of fractured rock and soil. A big improvement.
Twenty-two years ago, when Holly died, we discovered the amazing power of creativity in coping with whatever challenges life could throw at us. We learned that with ingenuity there is a work-around for anything, no matter how desperate a problem may seem at the time. That is one of the lessons that Estrella Vista has to teach almost each and every day.
Even those of us not in explicitly creative fields must come up with new ideas and insights in order to move ahead. How can we shake loose our rigid thinking patterns? Creativity has been pegged to conducive environments, perfect collaborators, serendipity, and even spiritual muses, but these are all outside influences. I think that the decisive factor must come from within, from a faith that the solution to any obstacle is staring us in the face if we will only recognize it.
Creativity is defined as the tendency to generate or recognize ideas, alternatives, or possibilities that may be useful in solving problems, communicating with others, and entertaining ourselves and others.
In order to be creative, you need to be able to view things in new ways or from a different perspective. Among other things, one needs to be able to generate new possibilities or new alternatives. Tests of creativity measure not only the number of alternatives that people can generate, but the uniqueness of those alternatives.
The ability to generate alternatives or to see things uniquely is linked to fundamental qualities of thinking and personality such as flexibility, a tolerance for ambiguity and unpredictability, and the enjoyment of things heretofore unknown.
According to author Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi in Creativity: Flow and the Psychology of Discovery and Invention, these are the characteristics of the creative person:
- Creative individuals have a great deal of energy, but they are also often quiet and at rest.
- Creative individuals tend to be smart, yet also naive at the same time.
- Creative individuals have a combination of playfulness and discipline, or responsibility and irresponsibility.
- Creative individuals alternate between imagination and fantasy ant one end, and rooted sense of reality at the other.
- Creative people seem to harbor opposite tendencies on the continuum between extroversion and introversion.
- Creative individuals are also remarkable humble and proud at the same time.
- Creative individuals to a certain extent escape rigid gender role stereotyping and have a tendency toward androgyny.
- Generally, creative people are thought to be rebellious and independent.
- Most creative persons are very passionate about their work, yet they can be extremely objective about it as well.
- The openness and sensitivity of creative individuals often exposes them to suffering pain yet also a great deal of enjoyment.
In other words, the creative individual is capable of integrating a high degree of paradox in his or her personality. To study paradoxes allows the mind to reach beyond what appears to be obvious. It transforms our behaviors from the merely reactive to proactive. Reaching beyond the obvious is the essence of creativity.
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