"The consciousness of the observer must be altered,.....reoriented toward the unbroken wholeness of which everything is a form.'
This book tries to come to grips with the elusive characteristics of creativity. My hope is that it will help the reader to make the enriching experience of the journey into her/his imagination. It uses as its framework a great work of literature: Gulliver's Travels by Jonathan Swift. A book which is a classic children's story and at the same time a rather obscene tale. Swift has been able to present a reasonable view of the world. He has used the imagination by means of which he could recreate that world in a form which teaches where argument fails and will mislead no one. This great work of satire, in itself a masterpiece of creativeness, I have used to find my bearings in an unknown territory. When I was a child this book had a great attraction for me. Later when I studied English I again came across it. To my surprise I found that Gulliver had visited 4 countries instead of the three which my censored childhood version had presented. And again it did not fail to attract me.
In my attempts to teach creative thinking, it occurred to me that this book might serve very well to introduce yet another country: a country too often left unexplored, the Wasteland of creativeness.
It is a land visited by many solitary geniuses of the past and the present . On our endeavors to enter this land we find ourselves, just like Gulliver, quite often shipwrecked on a foreign shore.Our ideas are sometimes described as childish, far out, unrealistic or a dream. This book aims to demystify this -often- solitary experience and show how it can be practically applied and shared with others. Throughout this book I will use Gulliver's Travels as a metaphor to render difficult concepts comprehensible. Of course a metaphor is just that - a metaphor. It sheds light on particular aspects and obliterates others. It describes subjective experiences which can point in the direction of creativity and how to cultivate it. As incredible as it may seem basically creativity is a matter of input, processing and output.
What matters is how we let this process happen. It is a matter of stretching the mind -by yourself- so as to make more of your everyday experiences.
After the outline in the introduction each 'book' starts with a summary of one of Gulliver's travels, after which a number of concepts are presented which have a direct bearing on the particular visit. These concepts have been presented alphabetically to enable quick perusal.
I do not claim that by studying this book you will become a creative genius. However, I do feel that once you have considered the ideas, techniques and concepts, you may be able to feel no longer like an alien on your own planet. And what is more be able to stretch your own limits and boundaries. For, as many philosophers have said, life being just an illusion, it is worthwhile to increase your powers of illusion and find ways to realize them.
Eindhoven, the Netherlands
July 1991 / July 2001
For Wilma, who by living a creative life taught me most of what I know.
The process in the black box....
(1)To become creative the first step is to develop the creative attitude.
A paradox: by focussing on my 'self' I improve my view of the world and do not become self-centred but opportunity-centred.
With this creative attitude (2) I will be able to analyze situations and see what is wanted.
(3) Then I can learn and fill my mind with facts.
(4) With the help of techniques I can search for ideas.
(5) The confidence so created will help me to let the facts simmer and incubate.
(6) The peace and quiet will let me see the new and original opportunities.
(7) finally I will manage to create an environment in which these ideas will come to fruition.
Actually the whole process will start again for having ideas makes you vulnerable and you will have to creatively prepare the environment.
By continually working on myself I will improve my environment by acting rather than by speaking. The satisfaction of self-actualization will make me happy and give me recognition, not from without but from within.
[back to start Creativity Explored in Gullivers Footsteps]
[back to Index]
It will be clear that this is not a 'passive' reading book, neither is Gulliver's Travels. Good literature puts into words what we often imagined, there is often recognition, a new awareness of what was hidden in our unconscious. Satire is an ideal way to show us our habits and routines bigger than life. It is a catalyst and can give us ideas. Exactly what Gulliver's Travels has done to me. No doubt all of us have a book or film which made a great impression and if this approach makes you aware of the potential of such a work of art, it has been successful. My purpose is to awaken the dormant desire in most of us to make something better of the way things are. Often we feel the need but do not see the possibility, as 'it's me against the rest of the world'. However, I do not think so, rather 'it is me and the rest'. What I have to think about is how I can set upon this. I know that I can change my environment and help others to change. I also am aware of the fact that I cannot change people against their wish.
This has been the line throughout the book: to show aspects of creativity which may present new vistas for the reader worthwhile of further exploration.
It is not passive in the sense that you always have to do it yourself and there does not exist a foolproof quick method as the following Zen story may demonstrate.
The Taste of Banzo's Sword
Matajuro Yagyu was the son of a famous swordsman. His father, believing that his son's work was too mediocre to anticipate mastership, disowned him.
So Matajuro went to Mount Futara and there found the famous swordsman Banzo. But Banzo confirmed the father's judgement. "You wish to learn swordmanship under my guidance?" asked Banzo. "You cannot fulfill the requirements."
"But if I work hard, how many years will it take me to become a master?" persisted the youth. "The rest of your life," replied Banzo. "I cannot wait that long," explained Matajuro. "I am willing to pass through any hardship if only you will teach me. If I become your devoted servant, how long might it be?" "Oh, maybe ten years," Banzo relented. "My
father is getting old, and soon I must take care of him," continued Matajuro. "If I work far more intensively, how long would it take me?" "Oh maybe thirty years," said Banzo. "Why is that?" asked Matajuro. "First you say ten and now thirty years. I will undergo any hardship to master this art in the shortest time!" "Well," said Banzo, "in that case you will have to remain with me for seventy years. A man in such a hurry as you are to get results seldom learns quickly."
"Very well," declared the youth, understanding at last he was being rebuked for impatience, "I agree." Matajuro was told never to speak of fencing and never to touch a sword. He cooked for his master, washed the dishes, made his bed, cleaned the yard, cared for the garden, all without a word of swordmanship. Three years passed. Still Matajuro laboured on. Thinking of his future, he was sad. He had not even begun to learn the art to which he had devoted his life. But one day Banzo crept up behind him and gave him a terrific blow with a wooden sword. The following day, when Matajuro was cooking rice, Banzo again sprang up upon him unexpectedly. After that, day and
night, Matajuro had to defend himself from unexpected thrusts. Not a moment passed in any day that he did not have to think of the taste of Banzo's sword. He learnt so rapidly he brought smiles to the face of his master. Matajuro became the greatest swordsman in the land.
(From Zen Flesh Zen Bones, Paul Reps)
Relearning creativity is very much like Matajuro's way of learning sword fighting. Much attention has to be given to seemingly unrelated things, it is 1% inspiration and 99% perspiration. Banzo was a true master because he understood that the art of sword-fighting is not so much wielding the sword (having ideas) but defending (perspiration). You must also not want to see quick results for: 'A man in such a hurry as you are to get results seldom learns quickly.'
This book is an explorer's book and you never know what lies ahead. Still you can prepare for the
unexpected by paying attention to details of everyday life and working on your creative powers now.
Yesterday happened, tomorrow is just possible, but today is happening now.
In the fullest sense of the word it is an explorer's handbook, as we follow in the footsteps of the physician Mr. Lemual Gulliver, a restless person who sees life as a journey.
There is no frigate like a book
To take us lands away,
Nor any coursers like a page
Of prancing poetry.
This traverse may the poorest take
Without oppress of toll;
How frugal is the chariot
That bears a human soul!