This post introduces the ideas on creativity developed by the pioneering French philosopher Henri Bergson. I have linked Bergson’s work with that of the American educationalist Ruth Richards, who coined the term everyday creativity. The emotional impact of the Queen’s funeral is used to illustrate the link between Bergson’s work and everyday creativity
What follows deals with everyday creativity, but includes some abstract concepts a long way away from our everyday lives.
What is everyday creativity?
Readers of what I have writing, and listeners to what I have been saying recently will have gathered that I think everyday creativity is important to me. Important enough for me to squeeze it in to my blogs, podcasts, and sometimes too often to offer to friends wanting to talk about other shared interests.
I can’t remember when I first became convinced of the importance of Everyday Creativity. It certainly wasn’t a version of the famous Eureka Moment. It was earlier this year, after my last lectures on the subject (via Zoom, during the time of the virus ). It was possibly during the time I was working through the life-changing period of my life as I entered into the ranks of the baby boomers from the 1940s.
I had set up this blog to write about it even before I had a description not to mention a definition that might need changing some months later. In one of my earlier posts I offered a reasonably stable description as
creativity in the sciences, politics, the arts, and above all in everyday life
Everyday Creativity began as a blog post in June 2022 to compliment my long-running blog Leaders we deserve. It will focus more on my developing ideas about the nature of creativity to be found in everyday life.
I hope it will be interactive, and result in a network of subscribers interested in creativity in the sciences, humanities, politics, but above all in everyday life.
Why is it important?
For me, it offers new ways of understanding how anyone might be more creative in everyday life.
What’s new about it?
Strictly speaking the term has already used, and the concept studied, particularly by the American scholar Professor Ruth Richards.
She writes in The Cambridge Handbook of Creativity
Everyday creativity, as a construct, is not, as some think, confined to the trivia of life. This is an important misunderstanding. It concerns almost anything to which one brings originality, any time creation occurs in an everyday context, including major projects. Nor are eminent and exceptional creators excluded. Everyday creativity can be seen as the ground from which (a later and) more publicly celebrated accomplishment can grow. In fact, many an important invention, equation, or painting that has changed culture started with a fleeting image or wild idea on an everyday walk or hike.
Later, her work was developed in further articles and books. The line of enquiry contributed to quantitative studies into the factors associated with creativity. As often happens, however, the power of the idea was not recognised, and the term has largely dropped out of use.
From Bergson to Deleuze and back
Bergson’s ideas were given a temporary boost through the writings of the French philosopher Gilles Deleuze, reaching English readers.
Deleuze saw in Bergson profound insights into the nature of the creation of movement perceived from multiple still images in Cinema, an example of Bergson’s treatment of time as .
The enthusiasm particularly from Sociologists was to become heated as a kind of culture war against ‘Continental philosophy’ particularly in the various forms of post-modernism. Two French physicists Alan Sokal and Jean Bricmont added to the battle with their book Fashionable Nonsense: Postmodern Intellectuals’ Abuse of Science. The attention provided to Bergson’s ideas by Deleuze was if anything counterproductive.
Why I believe Bergson is a key to understanding creativity from a practical perspective.
Although unfashionable today, Bergson reached the pinnacle of recognition for his work in his Nobel Prize for literature awarded in 1937 ‘in recognition of his rich and vitalizing ideas and the brilliant skill with which they have been presented’. The award cited The Creative Evolution. I read the book at first only dimly understanding its significance.
Even before DeLeuze’s support, there had been a controversy involving opposition to Bergson’s ideas by the century’s intellectual superstar Albert Einstein, who was subsequently considered to have misinterpreted Bergson as dismissing his own revolutionary ideas of time.
Much later than after my first reading, I began to see The Creative Evolution as offering a new way of thinking about creativity and time through a helpful lens of metaphor. I’m making the weak rather than strong case for Bergson’s philosophy. This offers me some leeway against deeper questions that continue to occupy the thoughts of academic and armchair philosophers.
Bergson, Time and the Queen’s Funeral
My takeaway from Bergson the is interesting idea of the persistence of time during which connections exist through our lived experiences.
For example, my reading of Bergson long ago then connected with his thoughts as I could understand them. Now I connect them with the personal experience of ten days of intense coverage of the the mourning for Queen Elizabeth, and installing of the new monarch Charles,
Two sets of events a hundred years apart, the first Bergson’s deep ideas on time helping me evolve my ideas about the second, my ideas about individual and shared experiences of the mourning period.
My glimpse of the new is that the emotional experiences of millions of people including myself are both unique and shared, an indication of the creative and evolutionary.
Creating this little note is helping me re-assemble my own new ideas which came to me through my interest in everyday creativity. Maybe readers or listeners will be engaging, reacting (OK, even disagreeing).