The Creative Dilemma

Creativity is a difficult area for discussion because it involves many myths and legends about its purpose, its origins, and its place in our world. It is a subject matter that is a contradiction in that it causes both tremendous awe and respect in as much as it is not valued and trivialized. Companies are calling for more creative solutions yet our educational system busy removing it from access. Our public and educational institutions prize conformity demanding that those within it meet a set of artificial test standards yet our society demands rugged individuality. It is not a battle of right or left political thinking. It really is a battle for life and meaning.

With that kind of friction taking place, it becomes a constant battle of hype, and misunderstanding by all involved. There has been study upon studies all done on creativity by the economic sectors, religious institutions, governmental agencies, and academic centers. They are available for the asking but little is done with this mountain of data that virtually sits unused. Why?

A lot I believe has to do with the way in which our society functions. It is historically verifiable. What brought this all about starts with the industrial revolution. It is the major influence of our age but not in a completely positive way that you might think. Yes it did make more products available to more people by being able to centralize means of production for easy replication. It made goods more affordable but at the same time it did something to how we see each other. What it did unfortunately was to make us think that we could apply the same production line problem solving logic to all aspects of life. Because of this it changed the psychology of how we see the individual – not as human beings, but as parts of a human machine. It took us from being individual craftsman and workers who depend upon each other to being parts of a flesh colored assembly line where parts are easily and cheaply replace. That perspective needed parts that could be easily replaced and replicated. This was just not what was being produced but who was producing them. We no longer needed individuals who could think and make things. Thinking was unnecessary on the production line. All you had to do was perform a desired task to produce a desired result. Thinking was not needed or encouraged. The cry became just do your job because we could replace you with someone who was willing to do just that – easily. Basic skills of reading, writing, and math were all that were required to track and report what you produced. No advance patterns of thought were needed because it was no longer required to the task at hand. Memorization and then regurgitation of production information was all that was needed. You do this to get that. You didn’t have to assimilate it or figure it out – you were told what to do and what was required.

We went from skilled craftsman who designed and made a complete product, to someone who placed a part on a product and performed a job – a task. You went from artisans who included a portion of themselves in what they did to being a part that placed or replaced a part on a product. These ideas are even now present in farming which has evolved into agribusiness and commodities producers.

If you look up the word job in the Webster’s Dictionary, it is not a very positive item. The origin of the word comes from the old English word that meant lump.  A lump is not a noble beginning. A lump by definition is “1: a piece or mass of indefinite size and shape 2 a. aggregate, totality <taken in the lump> b: majority3: protuberance: an abnormal swelling 4: a person who is heavy and awkward; also : one who is stupid or dull”.  This is not a positive image to start with. Yet it is the origin of the word that we have become focused on.

The definition of job doesn’t get much better but takes a distinctive nose dive into the abyss from there. The first is “a piece of work; especially: a small piece of work undertaken on order at a stated rate”.  There is nothing to indicate that this is a creative effort. You are not giving order, purpose or function to anything (the very soul of the creative effort) – you are taking orders, you are given its purpose and told its function.  No creative action needed. You are just there to get the job done as is stated in the second part of that definition “the object or material on which is being done.”

This is not something that we would normally want to aspire to, yet here it is. This is what we do. We go to our jobs every day. Most of us do not go to work we go to a job. We have made the words work and job interchangeable.

When we actually went to work it was different. Even the definition is different: “1:activity in which one exerts strength or faculties to do or perform something: a: sustained physical or mental effort to overcome obstacles and achieve an objective or result b :the labor, task, or duty that is one’s accustomed means of livelihood c: a specific task, duty, function, or assignment often being a part or phase of some larger activity”.  This shows the involvement of the total being – not only physically but mentally. The word job was a part of the definition but not its total meaning. Work involves the body, mind and spirit – the total being and cannot be defined as a machine. On the other hand a job is something to get done. It is the effect of some undefined effort to get an order done. It is the attitude of a machine. It is dehumanizing and places you into machine like status. No morals needed just do whatever it takes to get the job done.

This eventually went from the factory floor, to the office complex and then into our educational systems. Thought was unnecessary, production and results had taken its place so that we could simply get it done. It is not what you know it is what you produce. It is not what you could apply it was what were the results. Grades went from being an indicator as to what you might possibly know to an indicator of how you might succeed in getting a job.

You can see it in the schools today were the individual is really not valued outside of what the student can produce. It is the test score a student produces that is valued – not the student. Teachers are no longer teachers but managers of collected data. Teachers are not really allowed to educate but rather are required to manage a standard that all must attain to be deemed competent to get a job. Teachers are required to teach to the test (as much as everyone says they do not – they do). This is what you do when you produce parts for any machine. You test them so that they meet a standard so that they can be easily placed to do a job that has been ordered.

Teachers teach to the test so that the students can be measured to make sure that the desired outcome is achieved – the ability for the students to do and to get a job. It is job training.  It is a system where you can replicate the results to produce students ready to enter the work force. Teachers do not educate. They are production line managers who must obtain a desired output or be replaced to insure the quality of the products of the assembly line meet standards. The direction of education is no longer to help the individual attain a better understanding so that they might improve the world in which they live. The direction of education has become a check list of requirements that will produce something with the ability to fill a position.  That position is within an organization for the purpose of producing goods that are taken on order – a job. It becomes just another thing to be done.

Creativity is not valued. It has a minor role in society as that society becomes more mechanized and industrialized. Now that we have gone beyond the industrial revolution we find ourselves in an age of information. We are now faced with the fact that the principles the industrial age are also no longer of value. What you now have is a large bloated, series of mega-industrial corporations who no longer add value but consume it. They have become obstinate, refusing to change and watch as their world slowly crumbles in front of them. They moan the lack of creativity of the workers but foster a system that demands duplication, replication, and conformity. They are in fact the cause of their own demise. They have created a system of support that cannot flex either in goods or in those responsible for the production of their goods – because it was not a part of their culture to do so – it is not their job to do so.

You can see this type of thinking in government as well. People are not considered – bottom line production results are what are valued. Government programs are assessed based upon a cost to value. The same type of thinking that produced exploding gas tanks. It was cheaper to keep the car in production and pay off the few people who were hurt, maimed, or killed rather than spend the money to do the right thing to correct the design flaw in production.  Why because the results of doing what was right had an adverse effect on the cost of production lin which in turn had an adverse effect on the profit margin.

The industrial model in Government is being pushed in much the same way as it had been to education. Government model now is industrial which means that the government no longer serves the people but rather provides goods and services at a cost. That leads to a government that no longer solves problems but produce budgetary guidelines to offset the cost. This has led to the trickle down economy which has not worked in as much as the welfare state has not worked. We have seen time and time again that throwing money indiscriminately at things does not solve problems. It may in fact produce them.

We have entered a new age and that age requires creativity, the very creativity that had been and is legislated out of education. Creativity is the very thing that will meet the needs of the future. The old industrialized ways do not work and have not worked for a long time. They have produced an imbalance.

If you look at the beginnings of the rise to mega-industrial giant – the very thing that fueled that incredulous growth is creativity. It is the very thing that they do not presently value in their culture. They have confused the machine and tools of production with the means of the existence. They have reduced man to machine rather than elevating the position of man above machine. They have reversed the roles. That is why these institutions buy innovation rather than make it – then make it conform to their production models destroying any thought of innovation. Once creative innovation is destroyed, they continue the model of conformity and do more of the same.  When they crush the competition they crush the very spirit of innovation that would have kept them alive. They no longer provide services but tell the consumer what they will buy and what they will like. People are consumers that are told what they need, when they need it, and in the amounts that they need to buy.

Once you have crossed that line and make man a machine, you dehumanize society. You remove creativity and thus the ability to think. It is a cascading process of dehumanization.  You just react to a set of stimulus/inducement/incitement that is controlled by outside agencies and institutions controlled by a few that tell you what to consume. You are told that it is the amount of things you accumulate that adds value to your existence rather than the truth that it is you who adds value to things. The ability to think, and reason beyond a reactionary mentality is the ability to be creative. It is the ability to transform the environment that you call life. Uniformity is the very antithesis/opposite of human existence which is by nature diverse.

What in fact does this all have to do with a belief in God? It has quite a lot in fact. The very basis of our concept of god is starts with our belief that the god is in fact – creative. In that act of creativity, according to the Judaeo-Christian take on things, you take on a part of the image and likeness of God in whom we are supposedly made. It is the very first thing that you learn if you open the first book of either a Christian or Jewish Bible. The opening line is that at the beginning of all existence God created. If you read just a little further down it states that humanity is made in the image of God. All that we know at this point is that God is creative and we are made in that creative image. It doesn’t take a deep theological understanding, or for you to have an incredibly logical mind or to fully understand what the definition of creative is or to be able to understand that we are in fact creative by nature. Therefore by the same logic – to remove creativity from any portion of humanity is to reduce humanity to a machine like status. The logic continues that if we are not creative then we have removed the image of God from ourselves. We no longer see God in ourselves or others. This causes another set of issues that I will not go into here but this will continue in an ever deeper and darker spiraling dehumanization of people. To paraphrase the line from the no longer published political cartoon Pogo – we have met the enemy and it is us.

Continuing in that same path of logic we would then say that to deny our creativity – or narrow it down – is to in fact deny God and deny our very nature. In as much as God is love and we are then supposed to be a representation of that love so we can love – God is creative and we are to be creative. That is what our scriptures tell us to be true. If we then believe our scriptures to be true then to deny creativity is to say that scripture is not true which is an extreme correlation but one that can and should be drawn. We become a godless amoral society.

We have been given the ability by the very divine nature within us to affect the world creatively in love for love. We are not to lord it over the world but in love become creative forces so that the very kingdom of God will be on earth exactly as it is in heaven. If this then is the case then Christians have an absolute obligation to be creative and imaginative. The theologian Francis A. Schaeffer in the beginning of his collection of two essays “Art and the Bible” states that – “The Christian is the one whose imagination should fly beyond the stars.” Unfortunately this is not what we find. Instead we have our noses to the grindstone and do not see beyond the job. This is the problem. Christians have abandoned creativity and imagination and in doing so have abandoned the driving force of the universe. We have abandoned God.

There is a phrase that is used in Latin. It is deus ex machina which has the literal translation of “desperate or contrived solution”. We are more familiar with it as god from the machine. We have made a god of the machine – the product of a checklist. It drives our lives, our language, our education, our governments and our existence. We are reaping what we have sown. We have become a product and not a creation. We are the ones who must give order, purpose and function to life. We are not supposed to conform to the musing of an assembly line check list of product development. We are not a product – we are created to be creative and offer solutions to the world.


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