March 12, 2011, 11:24 pm
Filed under: the sweet life | Tags: , ,

My name is legion:  for we are many, said the possessed man from Gadara to Jesus in the first century AD as recorded in the gospel accounts of the Bible.  Many demons, one man.  He was resigned to them and to his split nature:  I am … we are, he confesses, a man divided against himself.

We are always suspicious of the truly creative among us.  We keep them on a short leash; patronize them for as long as we can get away with it; trot them out for the sake of appearance and public trust.  But really and effectively, we cast them out.  They are freaks, and that’s how freaks are treated.

The psychologist Csikszentmihalyi — quoted below — says that creative people are adaptable and complex, qualities that don’t seem extraordinary.  But, he also says they do special tricks.  They embody extreme contradictions, for instance.  They are able to combine things that most people can’t, like thinking and doing.  Most spectacularly – and curiously – a creative person is a multitude.  Legion.

There is a reason why artists and creatives appear distracted and tend to procrastinate:  their inner demons fight.  Otto von Bismark said, “Faust complained about having two souls in his breast, but I harbor a whole crowd of them and they quarrel.  It is like being in a republic.”

A muse is a goddess who inspires the writers of literature and the makers of art.  That’s the ancient Greek version; more recently it’s a sexy broad purring over a tough guy at a desk.  But the idea is the same, that creative people are inspired, or if you like, possessed, by beauties to make beautiful things.

And that’s why we don’t trust them.  We want to see what we see, what’s standing in front of us:  a person, singular, predictable, capable of doing only one thing at a time just like we can and do, content, immutable, simple.  Complex and contradictory is bad enough; a person who is actually a multitude of inspirations and forces is beyond too much, unspeakable.

From the essay —

I have devoted 30 years of research to how creative people live and work, to make more understandable the mysterious process by which they come up with new ideas and new things. Creative individuals are remarkable for their ability to adapt to almost any situation and to make do with whatever is at hand to reach their goals. If I had to express in one word what makes their personalities different from others, it’s complexity. They show tendencies of thought and action that in most people are segregated. They contain contradictory extremes; instead of being an “individual,” each of them is a “multitude.”

The Creative Personality, Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, Psychology today, 1996


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