Saturday, February 06, 2016

A Search for Creative Life

What enables Creativity? This has somewhat become the central question of my work.

In a way, it was always there. I always sought opportunities where the boundaries between work and play fades - in other words, sought out work that I love - though this often meant a circuitous route to what other people may call Happiness. In fact, with time, happiness became something I do not seek, just the right opportunity to be creative! Happiness became, to me, a bottle, and the outside it, in the ephemerality of work and play, joy is to be found! 

However, as Freud would have said in a different context, the economic life suppresses, rather than enables, such opportunities. The modern men (and women) is expected to play its part in the vast, global arrangement we have come to call civilisation, trading their very opportunities to be themselves, in return of happiness - or, what everyone calls happiness. In this sense, pursuit of happiness is the antithesis of a creative life, and yet, it is the act of creation, human inventiveness, that enables the consuming passions of the happiness-seekers.

This personal conflict is indeed amplified greatly while going through periods of compromise, such as now, when I must keep my head down and accept the diktats of the economic life. In the narrow bounds of job descriptions, which seeks to limit what one can and can not imagine, the desire for a creative opening becomes stronger. In the usual alienation from work, where meaning is separated from action under the useful guise of teamwork or process, the essential contrast between creative work, which seeks to embed meaning in the creator and the created, and economic work, which essentially transfers value from the creators' time to the economic product, become starker. For me, the feeling alternates between resignation, that this is what I am destined to do, and hope, that I must keep alive the quest for a more creative life. This quest is indeed what defines me, along with all my apparent eccentricities.

It is this hope, at its brightest, pushes me to embark on a way to find meaning by setting out to find the source of creativity. At a time when all those smart men, governments and universities, are attempting to position creativity as the essential growth engine for our economies, the essential conflict between economic and creative work may be significant beyond my own mid-life upheavals. Innovation Clusters, as they are called, are no longer the bohemian haunts or underground movements, but rather celebrated in the mainstream. Capitalism's central claim, once all those horrors of imperial extraction and unfair trade are sufficiently forgotten, is now the ability to create, to self-heal, to rejuvenate. Even if one is essentially aware how temporal these intellectual fads are, the charm of such claims is inescapable, indeed they are foundational to our own social hope, the two-cents worth happiness that we live by. With this rhetoric, now the wagons of emerging world prosperity has been hitched - and indeed, my native Kolkata, alongwith Sao Paulo, Shanghai, Djakarta, Manila and everywhere else, has now set out on a fantastic journey of some sort of Silicon dream.

So, I must restate my question, make it broader: Can one really engineer creativity? Build a creative ecosystem - or innovation cluster as the management lit will have it - that enable creative individuals to create economic value? Or, is this all finance capitalism's brave last stand, one final illusion, that will come unstuck with time? 

My journey, therefore, is to study the creative places, those fabled lands, cities and times, that enabled new thinking and progress - the history that lies at the very foundation of the current fashion. There are many attempts, as one would expect, to study the history of creativity, and creative places, and indeed, that is my starting point. But my intention is not to study the history and draw the conclusions that have already been drawn, but rather think about what I may call the Pre-history of Creativity. So, my quest is not for the belle-epoch Paris, Imperial Vienna or Renessaince Florence, but rather than the stifling world of Habsburg Court, the violence of Paris Commune or the petty traders of Tuscany, which preceded those moments of extraordinary creative flowering. And, I am all too aware of the famous blunders of historical reasoning - with hindsight, coincidence often appears as causation - and not attempting to create any fail-safe five-steps or seven-habits. Rather, I, a mere blogger, are looking for stories, ideas, inspirations, the little people rather than big names, the values rather than valuation. 

This quest, I hope, would also unbind this blog from the servitude of professional interests. I started this as a hobby, a plaything to keep my habit of writing alive, but over time, it has become a tool for career progression, a chronicle of my professional interests. At the point where my professional and creative interests diverge, a moment of acknowledgement that I live a life of compromises, it is best to moor this with its natural buoy - the creative pursuit and the pursuit of the creative.

 


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How To Live

"Far better it is to dare mighty things, to win glorious triumphs even though checkered by failure, than to rank with those poor spirits who neither enjoy nor suffer much because they live in the grey twilight that knows neither victory nor defeat."

- Theodore Roosevelt

Last Words

We shall not cease from exploration
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time.

- T S Eliot

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