Article Response: Rephrasing the madness and creativity debate: What is the nature of the creativity construct?

The correlation between creativity and madness is an intriguing one, and was recognized early in human-history by ancient philosophers Socrates and Plato. In Emilie Glazer’s article entitled “Rephrasing the madness and creativity debate”, she first describes the two main forms of psychosis as affective disorder and schizophrenia, stating that individuals with different psychosis will have their creativity affected differently. Early studies that the author cites, often published what were later determined by the scientific community as incorrect hypothesis; regardless, the authors of these studies were able to recognize “an empirical relationship between creativity and a predisposition to mental illness” (756). An interesting specimen to study with regards to mental illness and creativity would be the acclaimed author, plagued over the centuries by depression, substance abuse, suicide and psychosis. Glazer notes that research into select “British and Irish poets between 1705 and 1805” was able to “demonstrate [a] greater prevalence of psychosis among the eminent creators of the past compared to the general population” (756).

The two main forms of psychosis, previously defined as affective disorder (bipolar) and schizophrenia, have been studied and debated by scholars in relation to creativity. Affective disorder has been noted by Jamison to have a higher prevalence of “eminent creators” (qtd. in Glazer 757) than the general population, or the schizophrenic population. The transition between a state of manic emotion and depression supposedly allows the creator, first, bursts of “high energy… flexibility… fluidity of thought” and then the depressed state “allows [for] meticulous refinement… of the wild ideas formed during the manic period” (757). This rhythmic immersion allows the creators a wide understanding of emotion, and therefore a greater empathy with their audience. Examples used of possible creators with affective disorder are William Blake and Lord Byron. A schizophrenic, however, “[experiences] a sense of alienation, hyper self-consciousness… and affinity for non-conformist thought” (757). Storr suggests that the schizophrenic is “free from social boundaries” due to their illness, and therefore “[produces] creativity within the ‘revolutionary’ sphere” (qtd. in Glazer 757). Famous artists stated by the author to be on the “schizotypy spectrum”, are noted by her as Salvador Dalí and Franz Kafka, both of whom are known for their unconventional creativity (757).

Armed with their psychosis, many creators have been able to effectively wield their illness throughout careers and famous bodies of work, only for the gift to end in their demise. Ernest Hemingway, considered one of the greatest American novelists, ended his own life on the sea after a life-time of depression and alcohol abuse. Hunter S. Thompson, considered one of the greatest American journalists, ended his own life in the mountains after a life-time of depression and drug abuse. Sylvia Plath, considered one of the greatest American poets and short-story writers, ended her own life in her home after a life-time of depression. From Robert Louis Stevenson’s the Strange Case Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde to “Kubla Khan” by Samuel Coleridge and One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest by Ken Kesey, many great works of literature are written by their creators under the influence of narcotics. While suicide and substance abuse can not always be associated with mental illness, the increased rate by which they can be observed among famous authors can lead to a conventionalization of writers.

In a world inundated with ideas, it is increasingly difficult to create that which is novel and appreciated in society—that which is creative. Psychosis often allows those who suffer the ability to formulate drastically different concepts, occasionally fitting within the sphere of appreciation by the general population, but quite often exceeding those bounds and becoming incomprehensible. The distinction between controlled, carefully crafted creativity seen among the general population, and the lack of restraint and entrance into “unrecognizable creativity” (760) that the insane produce, explains why there are not more “eminent creators” (qtd. in Glazer 757) with mental illness, as many are simply written off as insane by those others who can not understand them.

 

Creative Act #7: The Good, the Bad and the Artist.

The prompt for this creative act was to “create something using an archetypal pattern or image to inspire you”. An archetype being described as something universally understood. There are a few faces that are known by people all over the world, and my research of polls and online articles came up with a top three: Michael Jackson, Jesus Christ and Adolf Hitler. The artist, the good and the bad. Familiar for music, faith and evil, these three faces are immediately recognized globally. I envisioned combining the three faces together, and not being a visual artist I decided to use a computer program. At morphthing.com, I was able to take a photo of Michael Jackson in his later years, Jesus’ face mapped digitally from the Shroud of Turin (as opposed to the iconic image of Jesus often light haired, blue eyed and fair skinned), and a photo of Hitler. A representation of the collective face of humanity.

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Michael Jackson in his later years.

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Jesus Christ from the Shroud of Turin.

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Coloured Adolf Hitler Portrait

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The combination of the three. A rough representation of the archetype of face. Time will perhaps replace these figures with another three, as there were others before them—so long as artists have depicted the human face.

Creative Act #6: Faces

  The prompt for the creative act was the create something from a sensuous perspective. Sensuous being described as more logical, linear and structured. I decided to write a poem, but unlike the free-verse that is my usual medium, I chose one of the more structured types I could find: the sestina.

 

Faces

 

Wandering down the alleys of books,

I am transfixed by ivory spine and

Sheltered scalp, crooked beneath board

Where fingers scrape across the page.

A cat’s claws to a small boy’s chest,

Tearing flesh with irregular pattern!

 

Interactions between, of course, a pattern.

When the boy reads too many books

And see’s little of life, his hairless chest

Betraying the stupidity of young and

Young boys, in particular. Like

so many, this one used violence in shelter.

 

The feline of black and white colour, chest

Bristled sharply, unnatural under this shelter.

Friend to no human but only a dog and

Fat white cat. Charlie, a mate. Calm in pattern

And strong in spirit. One for the books

Said the farmer, the master like.

 

The tall German, brought over the ocean a chest

In lead, so heavy that it weighed the ship aboard.

Inside he hid his worldly goods: silver, bones and

Cheese scones. His pipe smoke drawing pattern

In study, lined with his pig farming account books.

The corner picture frame, clenched newspaper page.

 

Punching etched keys with a ch-chack on page,

The words scrawled themselves across his chest

And in his heart, where he thought lay books,

Captured from an imagination. Board

On all sides, the vessel of metaphor and pattern,

Image scattered like grains of sand over land, and

 

Cracking the goos of fingers and

Bone, he wallows up from a page

Of drunken lore. Tapping a pattern

In his palm with cigarette burning through chest.

Cool morning air, rushed to board—

Splashing the waves up against hull. No books.

 

Lives and memories, glossed faces tossed in a chest.

Resting at the bottom page, the back of the book and pinned to boards,

Red X meets at nose, a pattern of death. One more figure lost in the books.

 

Humanmetrics Jung Typology Test

INFJ

Introvert(44%) iNtuitive(25%) iNtuitive Feeling(38%) Judging(1%)
You have moderate preference of Introversion over Extraversion (44%)
You have moderate preference of Intuition over Sensing (25%)
You have moderate preference of Feeling over Thinking (38%)
You have marginal or no preference of Judging over Perceiving (1%)

I took this test three times, and received the same result each time (although the percentages were different).

Creative Act #5: Language Paradigm

For this week’s creative act we were told to accept a current paradigm and then change it. This has proven difficult for me. However, I eventually settled on the paradigm of language. Many countries, cultures and people have their own language—something built up and passed down over time. What I propose is a change from the estimated six-thousand to seven-thousand languages in the world, to one. This has been attempted before with esperanto, a language created from a number of others, but rigid in it’s application. Instead, my approach is that children should be taught the following main languages: English, French, Spanish, German, Russian, Mandarin, Hindi, Japanese, Swahili and Arabic. Teaching children each word from each language simultaneously, and encouraging them to incorporate and switch the words as they speak. This would soon enough create a melange (French for mixture) language that would be kueleweka (Swahili for understandable) by all. Not rigid in it’s written or spoken form, but instead a constantly changing sort of improvisation.

Examples of speech in this new, mixed language:

Where es l’épicerie, ich muss buy tamāṭara.
(Where is the grocery store, I need to buy tomatoes.)
[English, Spanish, French, German, English, Hindi.]

And just as easily, the above sentence could be spoken as such:

Wo ist das produktovyy magazin, watashi wa comprar tomates.
[German, Russian, Japanese, Spanish.]

More examples of this combined language:

¿Cómo proshel kontsert? Nikashikia wa sore wa fantasutikkudatta.
(How was the concert? I heard that it was fantastic.)
[Spanish, Russian, Swahili, Japanese.]

Aprendi to speak wie dies als ein Háizi.
(I learned to speak like this as a child.)
[French, English, German, Mandarin.]

This would connect the world like never before, or ever since the fall of the Tower of Babel. A uniting force that would draw the world out of it’s current state of conflict, improve relations between all peoples, and promote international business and contact with a once impossible ease.

Creative Act Reflection #1: Space ambitions shrink in scale

October 14th, 2012

The creative act I am reflecting upon is a poem I wrote about the permeability of dreams, and a concept that perhaps dreamers can enter those of another. When a vivid, lucid dream comes to me, I often find myself faced with a person I know in the conscious world. A friend, family member or even someone I had only met once – perhaps at a party. These people behave with lifelike mannerisms, speaking how they would in person, thinking and responding, so that it truly seems as if they have passed the boundaries of my resting mind, and found themselves in my dream – or perhaps, I have fond myself in theirs.

In her Skype lecture, Dr. Alice Flaherty responded to a question from the auditorium which asked if there was a neurological connection between dreams and creativity. Dr. Flaherty said that dreams were essentially all the garbage of the mind, thrown together haphazardly and voided by the brain in sleep, therefore non-creative. In a later workshop, a majority of students polled said that they derived inspiration for various creative acts from dreams. If dreams are nothing more than garbage, it would stand to reason that when the refuse is pulled together, polished, refined and put to a medium it becomes a beautiful form of recycled creativity. In the mind all along, it simply needed to be exposed. However if there is no rational in dreams, how then would such detailed human-beings be able to present themselves in another’s dream. If they were just the random, collected thoughts there would be no coherence, when in fact these individuals seem to be quite comprehensible; often in my personal experience offering unique wisdom or perspective on issues that I had been struggling through in my conscious state.

Our first lecturer, Dr. Oded Lowenheim spoke of the book he was in the process of writing, The Politics of the Trail: Reflexive Mountain Biking Along the Frontier of Jerusalem. The particular excerpt he read aloud was of a dream he had; detailed; revealing in an alarming way the stranglehold the Israeli military still held on him, though he had long since completed his mandatory service. Entering a network of caves, Dr. Lowenheim found himself faced by a desk with three Israeli soldiers. Dr. Lowenheim described the young soldier, a corporal and an aging Colonel with near photorealistic detail. Perhaps it is the skill of a talented prose writer to create lifelike characters, but he did not explain it as such. These were three people with beliefs, judgments, thoughts and individual actions of their own. As flesh and blood in their own mind as he was in his.

The two perspectives on dreams the doctors revealed are engaging models by which to examine my creative act. I began the poem from a BBC article headline entitled “Space ambitions shrink in scale”, using it as a prompt from which to construct the rest of the poem, which would have been impossible to write for me had I subscribed to Dr. Flaherty’s proposal that dreams were rather meaningless, as I find it very difficult to create something I do not believe in. Each image, metaphor and connection drawn with words was as crucial and conceivable as the next, they needed to be in order to formulate the theory in poetic verse. Dr. Lowenheim’s conviction in the power of dreams for introspection, which he displayed during the lecture that took place before the assignment of the creative act, inspired my poem considerably. To me, all poetry is a form of self-reflection, and equally so are dreams and their interpretation. This was the notion which propelled my creative act along the striae of the page, as I toyed with the concept of an abstract opening in the mind that lets in a collective consciousness of others, an external source of creativity. It certainly felt as such when I wrote the poem, as if a muse guided my pen through the raw draft.

Creative Act #4: A Paranoid’s Journal

0850: A man and a woman jog past me at the bus-stop. The watching eyes not as discrete as my surveillance usually is – I assume they are new agents. Inexperienced. I am not. They have been getting sloppy in who they send.

-She wore an orange Nike baseball-cap, grey shorts and a blue shirt, with dark hair in a pony-tail; Approximately 5’3’’ of Korean ethnicity.
-He wore a black shirt, blue shorts, stained-white trainers and glasses; medium length brown hair, approximately 5’10’’ and Caucasian.

0900: Another walked by shortly after the first pair, perhaps on assignment from a different agency – whatever the case, he was more discrete – until I saw the audio-receiver in his ear.

-With light hair and a medium beard, he wore a blue hoodie, grey shorts, long white socks, runners and a green bag with the brand ‘Fidelity’ on the back. Standing approximately 6’4’’, Caucasian.

0930: The bus arrives. It isn’t the usual driver for this route, and he won’t make eye-contact behind his sunglasses and visor as I board. And people call me paranoid. All the other passengers seemed focused or occupied elsewhere, but I can feel their peripheral stares. This bus is thoroughly compromised. I will be getting off at the next stop.

0935: I transfer to another bus, after walking three stops backwards and taking the opposing route on the opposite street. They both end up in the same place, albeit this one takes longer.

1015: I pay my ferry ticket at the self check-out like usual, no need for physical eyes to have noticed and spend a portion of their memory on me.

1100: I miss the 10 o’ clock ferry, either due to the bus driver purposefully stalling or the ferry leaving early. Either way, my trip has been detected, and I board the 11 o’ clock.

1130: Arsenal scores against West Ham on the television set. Score: 3-1. I remember this game, and I start to wonder why there would be a Premier League recording on the ferry’s entertainment system. Is this entire ship a shame? Crew, passengers, voyage..

1233: I always hold the rail while crossing that retractable bridge, connecting the ferry and terminal. The fifty foot drop to foaming surf below, combined with all those unknown, staring faces that hustle and push past – any one of them could be an agent, trying to end me with a simple push. So I hold the rail.

1244: In choosing a taxi-cab, one must be careful. The drivers who rush towards you, hands trying to grab bags before they’ve left your own and smiles beaming without purchase. Who would be so eager to drive someone they don’t know? A potential serial killer, a potential agent. I always choose the cab-driver most disinterested, most talking on his phone to his wife, begging her to not leave him and most unconcerned with me. I let him talk on his phone, a rat tat tat machine-gunning of Farsi.

1330: My habitual and prudent glances through the back window of the cab, have proven justified for yet another time. There is clearly a vehicle following us: Cadillac Seville, 1989, black in colour with a license-plate reading: FDF-469. I’ll run it through a database later, despite the fact that it will no doubt come up as a single mother from Burnaby – those who follow me are always careful about their tracks. For now though, I urge my driver on, to take a right hand turn just before it would have been too late. The slight screech of tyres and that faint noxious smell of burnt rubber and built up exhaust slip through the back window, as he takes the turn off and I watch the Cadillac speed on by.

1420: Another series of diversions and necessary twists and turns, and we arrive at my location. It is three blocks walk away, but I don’t need the driver to know exactly where I live, regardless of how trustworthily inept he is. I pay the fare, with a modest tip, before taking my luggage and trudging off through a nearby alley-way. Rolling wheels over the occasional dip and divvy, I arrive at my safe house without any further incident.

1600: I go out the back-way, instead of the other back-way, melding into the shadows that hug the sides of the apartment buildings close. Dark, knee-length coat the perfect camouflage. Around the corner there is a coffee shop, with long hair and a nobel straight nose, beautiful brown eyes that seem to stare right through me. I avoid it, instead walking another four and a half blocks to the Starbucks. No one remembers you at Starbucks. Sipping a pumpkin spice latte, I reflect not for the first time on how vile it is, preferring my coffee black – but that information could prove disastrous if learned by them.

1630: I wait until a large group of friends depart, before slipping in next to them and using their fat as a shield against prying eyes. Walking along with them for a distance, I slip off into an antique store, standing next to a cedar armoire posing as mahogany, looking through the deserted shop’s window carefully, noting any who could have been on my tail. A suspicious man slowly moves by, his back hunched as if in pain and his weight seemingly leaned upon a triple pronged cane, green fuzz embellishing it’s points. I wait until he is too far away to notice, before slipping back out into the street and going to my safe house.

1730: I board the Sky Train at Commercial-Broadway, the first into the first train car, I make sure to acquire a window seat. As the remotely operated vehicle grinds down it’s electrified tracks, I use the reflective screen of my Sony Ericsson to watch the faces behind and to my sides.

-A man in a blue and yellow striped track-suit, a Puma cap pulled down, so that the brim hid the details of his Caucasian face. Approximately 5’10’’ and 165 lbs,
I keep an eye on him for the rest of the trip – as he does the same to me. He gets off at Joyce-Collingwood. I get off at the next stop, diverting to the Millennium line, in case he had plans for them to meet me at an ensuing stop.

1820: I go to Costco, I find it’s tremendous size comforting – making it easier to blend and disappear. I buy a can of turkey gravy, bread, cranberry sauce and slices of processed turkey meat to make Thanksgiving dinner.

1900: Preparing my sandwiches at the safe-house, I think of everything I am thankful for: electrical tape, Emil Kraepelin, leather.

2100: I go to sleep, after locking up – turning off – alarming – booby-trapping and cleaning my safe-house. It will be a restless night.

I kept a journal while traveling from Victoria to the mainland for Thanksgiving, recording thoughts and events with paranoia always in the back of my mind. The regular happenings, normal people and mundane places I saw, soon transformed into danger and subterfuge at every turn.