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February 15, 2004


Herbert M. Bryant Jr.

The idea that "Self-elicitation is an endless circle to nowhere" is a good maxim to keep in mind, since it points to the seldom acknowledged truth of our dependence upon external triggers for creative problem solving. Creativity, when short of the divine, is never "out of nowhere", is never purely autogenic.

In fact, even chance patterns, from tea leaves or the flight of birds, can cause implicit knowledge to be brought together, unseen connections realized.

Here's a quotation cited within an old SIR Inc. database manual, which is taken out of context from Montaigne's Essays, but is used to make a point about the nature of the creative problem solving process:

"I have only made here a collection of other people's flowers having provided nothing of my own but the cord to bind them together." -- Montaigne, Essays, Book 3, Chapter 12.

Paradoxically, the first rule of creative problem solving is sometimes alleged to be "try to NOT invent anything." ;-) Yes, I'm not kidding, I actually once read that in a treatise about using creativity in practical problem solving, and it was meant in more than the sense of what psychologists call 'paradoxical injunction'.

Also, it seems ruminating alone is only done by internalizing social dialogue. What is thinking itself but imagined conversation between two internalized, and therefore imaginary, interlocutors (one of them being one's own imaginary self)? We are social animals, our very 'souls' being fashioned in community with others. When alone we are, in fact, processing social information in a very social way.

And yet, we can, and indeed must, disconnect from our immediate environment into the theatre in our heads to perform fully the level of social activity needed for (creative) thought.

(I believe it's a vague undergraduate memory of the writings of G.H. Mead from which I take the idea that we all are, in each of our individual selves, a play of actors on an internal stage populated with its own selectively incorporated Greek Chorus of Significant Others.)

Is not our name truly Legion, for we are many?

-- Herb Bryant

P.S. -- These comments may have gone beyond the domain of the remarks originally stimulating them, but I generally tend toward divergent, rather than convergent, thinking. -- HB.

David Locke

This statement is not true: "Self-elicitation is an endless circle to nowhere." That might be the case when you do it Denham, but it isn't the case when I do it. I still huddle with Steve or Kjell or Bruce, but I can come up with ideas that surprise me if left to myself.

I have too many interests. to be bored.

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