Pat Robertson stands waist deep in a big, steamy pile of dogma doo as his recent comments about the tragedy in Haiti got a lot of people up in arms. Why did this terrible thing happen? Haiti made a pact with the devil, of course. I guess the whole island signed something a while back and after the life of luxury they’ve had over many years, Satan decided to make them suffer a little. How does one come up with this nonsensical explanation for something that is so hard to accept? It’s called intolerance of ambiguity and here’s the definition according to wikipedia, it is a “tendency to perceive or interpret information marked by vague, incomplete, fragmented, multiple, probable, unstructured, uncertain, inconsistent, contrary, contradictory, or unclear meanings as actual or potential sources of psychological discomfort or threat.”
What does this have to do with art? A lot. Tolerance of ambiguity is a hallmark of the creative mind. Creative people tend to be more accepting of the things they don’t understand, things that are undefinable, contrary, etc. Dogmatic thinking goes a long way toward stifling the creative mind because all the explanations for things come prepackaged for your consumption. Sea shells found on a mountain? Well, that would have to be because of the great flood. Don’t even bother looking for another explanation. I’m not saying that if you are a person of faith you are a Luddite, I know many extremely creative people, great painters, who are deep into their faith. And I’m not isolating the religions here either, I’m very close to my fraternity brothers from the college years and these are some of the most right-winged, dogmatic, demagogic people I have ever known. I love em but they are really nuts about some things (cough….Obama). If you are an artist/writer/musician and you are surrounded by the same, did you notice during any of the presidential elections how many of your artist friends tended to be democrats?
But I’m getting off track. The artists I know are the most accepting, nonjudgmental, open-minded, giving, happiest people on the planet and it’s in large part due to how they perceive the world. We spend our lives making new associations, connecting unlike things to build a new and synergetic idea. Problem solving is what we do, in fact, we come up with solutions for problems that don’t even exist. Our entire job is to find new ways to look at the world, reinterpret what we know, defy logic and rule. It’s a good way to go. If a nine story crystal were to suddenly thrust itself out of the ground in the middle of the city, I’m sure that many people would start attributing weird explanations for it but most of the artists I know would want to use it in their art.
Since I taught some creative thinking classes in college (okay community college) and still have all my research and stuff, I thought I’d write a little about the creative process. Seems like a good idea.