Sunday, January 13, 2013

Creativity and sub-creativity

I started to watch a TED talk [not by me ....:-)) this morning where a digital artist was talking about creativity - he mentioned how difficult it is to create something from nothing.  A throw away line of course, or a meme - but that got me to thinking about J.R.R. Tolkien [bear with me!] - Prof. Tolkien was a devout Christian and believed that only God creates - that is, only God has or can produce 'something' from 'nothing'.  Tolkien believed that humans 'sub-create' - that is they re-assemble existing forms, ideas, things, and so on, into new forms.... but that we cannot by our nature begin with a literal nothing.

Now, to be fair, I suppose the fellow giving this talk was using the term 'creativity' in its general sense, and not in a theological or philosophical sense - or indeed, in a scientific sense.  Scientists too, after all creatively re-arrange matter to suit humanity's purposes, or just out of curiosity.

The TED talk:

Aaron Koblin:  Artfully visualizing our humanity

And J.R.R. Tolkien:

” The incarnate mind, the tongue, and the tale are in our world coeval. The human mind, endowed with the powers of generalisation and abstraction, sees not only green-grass, discriminating it from other things (and finding it fair to look upon), but sees that it is green as well as being grass. . . The mind that thought of light, heavy, grey, yellow, still, swift, also conceived of magic that would make heavy things light and able to fly, turn grey lead into yellow gold, and the still rock into swift water. . . in such ‘fantasy’, as it is called, new form is made; FaĆ«rie begins; Man becomes sub-creator.” 

from:  Tolkien, J.R.R. “On Fairy-Stories.” The Monsters and the Critics: And Other Essays. Ed. Christopher Tolkien. London: HarperCollins, 2006. pg 122. found here:

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