Saturday, July 31


Whether we want to accept the obvious or not, the fact is that we all discriminate – it is in our nature to discriminate. We adore almost everything that we discern as beautiful but we hesitate to hold the same feelings for something that we consider as ugly. The mind is selective in its choices and preferences; it becomes fascinated by beauty and beautiful things. The mind is actually a pleasure seeker and is almost always readily seduced by beauty. The real source of enjoyment that we seek and achieve from beauty is coherence. It is the coherence within the beauty that makes the seduction so successful.

There exist deeper relations between the mind and beauty, which is shown by the antipathy for ugliness and incoherence. We can say with certainty that beauty would not be beauty unless it encompasses and possesses coherence. Being coherent is a skill that is learnt, which when fully accomplished and mastered becomes an art. And those who manage to dedicate their lives to mastering this art professionally are rewarded and revered by society. We admire their skillfulness and ingenuity.  They make the art look so easy (what we see as almost impossible) – perhaps too easy. Maybe it is their courage to persevere to attain these skills that we deify.

By skill, I mean skills of communicating ideas, in innovative and creative ways, but even more importantly in a lucid and coherent manner. Often the most brilliant ideas are not taken up because the individual expressing the idea does not have the skills to convey them coherently and skilfully. It is why humanity has always endeared and valued creative geniuses who are lucid and coherent, who have shown determination and strength of the mind in the face of much adversity. There have been many individuals in history who have boldly and bravely chosen to elevate creativity to its ultimate heights. We have idolised them for their genius and extraordinary creative abilities.

As I have argued, creativity is the ultimate goal of the human mind. But “extraordinary creativity comes with a price tag” that not everyone will be willing to pay. Jeffery A. Kottler, in his book ‘Divine Madness’ (JOSSEY-BASS, 2006, A Wiley Imprint), has illustrated how some extraordinary creative geniuses have struggled with their sanity (or insanity) throughout their lives. It is worth noting that the creative geniuses are much more sensitive and much more fine-tuned to their senses than the rest of us. Kottler explains: “One difference between creative geniuses and rest of us is that they are more willing to trust their inner voices even when others might caution otherwise”.

The book ‘Divine Madness’ tells ten stories of creative struggle, illustrating how these extraordinary and creative ten people (of whom almost all are artists in one form or another) juggled creativity with divine madness.  It is an excellent book that highlights the suffering and pain that coexists in parallel with extraordinary creativity, resulting in intense suffering after each episode of extraordinary creativity. Such experiences of suffering are exceptionally rare and there are many more cases which also show that creative people have managed to live normal lives (something that was not shown by example in the book). However, the book does have a point to prove and that is nothing in life is free and that there is always a price to pay somewhere along the way, particularly when you are an extraordinarily creative – and are in “extreme deviation from the norm”.

The importance of creativity cannot be underestimated. Creativity not only protects the mind from insanity, it nourishes the mind. It is creativity that restores the mind. I publish below a few paragraphs from the book, which in my view illustrate the thesis of Divine Madness (JOSSEY-BASS, 2006, A Wiley Imprint).

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