I’m writing this with my feet dunked into a cooler of ice-cold hose water. So that’s what you hoser can mean! Musing at my breathtaking lack of creativity in dealing with heat in past summers, I start to wonder how helpful schooling really is to daily life. Isn’t higher education supposed to aid us in resolving real world problems?
The process of creative problem solving begins with holding back reality just enough to allow some light of innovation to get in. In daily life, learning depends on whether we define creativity as a universal skill or one limited to certain silos, realms of academia, or trades. At AU we learn at home, and this helps; every unit in our courses happens against an all too familiar backdrop of practical reality. Maybe the process is more important than the subject matter; whereas some people can think themselves into a depressing corner given the slightest provocation, others can find daylight when down in even the deepest hole of despair. Thinking of creativity as a unified and diverse multitool of the mind bodes well for improving our ability to think decisively, clearly, and creatively when faced with life’s little pitfalls.
Perhaps our education depends on us realizing that in all realms of life there are other possibilities out there. By this token innovation springs from openness. Whether we work our AU magic into our life regime remains up to us.
Bring on the Theorists!
As it happens, the nature of creativity has been investigated by philosophers in the past. Alfred North Whitehead claimed that “Creativity is monistic, not in the sense of an ontological monism, but in the sense that it is ‘one’ rather than ‘many’. Creativity cannot be ontologically monistic because it is not actual. However, since it is indeterminate it must be one rather than many” (online). Creativity by this token appears unified in that it’s more of an ideal and sensation than a literal thing. Perhaps it’s a skill, like being good with one’s hands or at translating daydreams into action.
So, creativity may be universal in a sense, a sort of big old cosmic oneness outlaying the potential in all things we think and do and, by this unified and expansive nature, be capable of taking many forms. This begs the question: in the hard sciences, where abstraction relies on empirical data and replicable results, can we measure a wholeness such as creativity as Whitehead described it? Is there anything outside the monism of creative au jus, for instance our studies at AU? A wholeness vast and splendid and mysterious beckons, full of epiphanic moments that transcend particular instances where we engage our protean minds.
Suppose that creativity was as diverse as the moments of its actuality; surely that makes us lightning rods of potential? Certainly, it helps to think that we have abundant possibilities at our mental fingertips, but where there’s mind there’s matter. And that matters too (and for some minds most of all). In physics, the mystery of particles extends to “the fact that a material particle may behave like a wave and like a particle, depending on the context” (online). Now that falls under the rubric of ontological promiscuity; a particle being two things at once, or in our case a student also being a husband and volunteer and, er, maybe a Dungeons and Dragons enthusiast. Physics suggests that flexible creativity is wired into the cosmos even at the particulate level. It’s down to us to unlock our hidden potential, and that’s why the mind bending stimulation of AU is great: to learn is to learn how to learn and to think new thoughts.
This creative morphology, if unintentional, is “still one of the most intriguing and beautiful mysteries of quantum physics” (online). By seeing physical examples that parallel our goal to be better thinkers we make visible new experiences. It’s like how dappled light can create shade that appears like water (and a person might believe they see water when shown a photo) but, in the end, the mind’s realm and the material realm can overlap and both realities are true in their respective realms—just as a particle can be two things at once.
Creativity allows us to suspend some of what seems impossible so that we may embrace new realities and bring them into existence. The tools are with us as potentials, but we have to learn to open up our Swiss army knife of undiscovered abilities. To imagine shadows functioning like water could only aid an artist in their depictions of nature, for instance. And to open our minds to new concepts helps us to retain and sustain our learning as distance students; imagination is ground zero for learning and adapting just as knowledge retention is based in a desire to read and reread our notes before an exam. So I thank Athabasca for providing impetus to finding newfound comfort. It’s not on the exam, but it’s a reward in itself to feel my chilled out feet firmly planted in this cooler of cold water on a sweltering day!