Creativity is Crucial to All Studies

Arizona Genomics Institute, University of Arizona. 2009

Math is an exciting subject. I used to love balancing equations in algebra, using numbers to describe the parameters of shapes in geometry, and discovering that you can find the distance between objects using the angles of triangles in trigonometry.

History is equally exciting. I learned about the cultures of ancient civilizations. I read about the inequalities of different people groups throughout time, in my nation, and around the world. The development of governmental structures, the events leading up to the World Wars, the historical figures who left their marks on the world in various capacities, all helped me understand the people who lived and worked to make the world as it is now, better or worse.

Don’t get me started about science! Genetics! Biology! Anatomy and physiology! Astronomy! Animal Science! Chemistry! The never ending supply of fascinating discoveries about the natural world and our universe are awe inspiring.

In school, I excelled in every subject. I mention this only to make the point that every subject illuminated my imagination and made me appreciate life and the world. I excelled, because I have an insatiable curiosity. I love to connect knowledge from different areas to be able to understand the larger context of LIFE. I am first and foremost an artist, writer, singer, and cellist, but while studying creative writing in college, my minor was Equine Science and I worked for three years in a genetics lab as a lab assistant. As an adult, I worked in another research university as an animal care technician. I was a teacher’s aid in an elementary school teaching English as a Second Language. Speaking of languages, I have studied five of them besides my native English, of course.

The reason that math, science, history, sociology, psychology, apply to a discussion of creativity, is that all major advancements in the perpetuation of these studies were made, at some point, with creativity.

Creativity is not exclusive to the arts. The Merriam Webster dictionary definition of CREATE is: to bring into existence, to produce or bring about by a course of action or behavior.

To be creative is to have the ability to imagine or make something beyond imitating what already exists. Inventors of new kitchen gadgets or medical supplies do this, as do people in sociology who look at existing problems in our societies and work to create solutions. Scientists do this when they question our current understanding of the way the world works and create research protocols which they can use to learn new insights. Mathematicians create equations to more quantitatively describe any phenomenon.

The reason that this discussion is important to consider, is that there seems to be a disconnect in society with the arts and sciences, as if they are mutually exclusive. I have had a longtime personal annoyance about schools and our culture emphasizing STEM only (science, technology, engineering, math) for about a decade, because it was shortsighted. All of those subjects require innovation, design, and creativity. The Arts are not separate from them. Nor are the Arts a pitiable step-sibling to advancement, only to be seriously acknowledged politely, but awkwardly, in the public square. Look throughout time at the music, art, dance, dramas, architecture of various periods and people groups, and you will learn about their cultures, sociology, psychology, technological and scientific understanding of the world. The Arts are not created in a vacuum. While math, engineering, science etc describe in a quantitative manner, what it means to be human and how our world works, the Arts of all types are the qualitative description. In my travels around the country, world, and in various careers, I have found it is common to know scientists or lawyers who also play the violin, psychologists who also paint, and dancers who are also accountants.

Thankfully, this exclusive mindset is changing, as is the popular acronym, which is now STEA(rts)M, and there is, fittingly, much more research and cultural mindshift appearing in public about the need for good design and creativity in all arenas. A few years ago, I was advised to remove the word “creative” from my resume as I applied to administrative assistant jobs, because companies just want people who do the job spelled out to them, and now I am seeing corporations touting their “creative approach to business”. Recently, for example, I came across a Netflix documentary called The Creative Brain, and also, a website which I found particularly satisfying, called, www.stemtosteam.org

To borrow from a common parable: Imagine the story of the four blind men trying to describe an elephant- one man has the tail, another discovered the four strong legs, the third man is holding the wiggly trunk, and the fourth is patting down the ears. Each of the men accurately describes a part of the animal which he is researching. My point is that there is a fifth blind man, The Artist, who gathers each of these descriptions, and uses his imagination to create an image of the whole animal.

10 thoughts on “Creativity is Crucial to All Studies

  1. Laelia, this is a brilliant discussion that flows really well and I happily engaged with it as I sit here very relaxed on Sunday morning (in New Zealand). I identify strongly with your holistic view and I also love your infectious enthusiasm and passion for life!

    Like

  2. Hi Laelia, (Liz’s husband here) You had me by the fifth line when I saw a semantic bridge between your explanation around ‘unknowns’ and ‘inequalities’. Great writing and a meaningful leading photo. I’ll be following you from https://growplan.wordpress.com/
    I’m a landscape architect and natural systems stormwater specialist.
    Nigel

    Like

      • Thanks from both of us Laelia! I’ve just published a post about your discussion, sharing a couple of quotes and linking back – I hope you’re happy with I’ve done. Best wishes from Liz

        Like

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