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creative fidelity
january 30, 2011



The legacy of ‘creativity’ is born from cultural mysteries about how anything is produced; so, natural production was the original wonder (which, to ancients, must have been the work of gods, like our crafting, which classical Greek called poiesis, you know), though it was our wondering (intelligence) that made nature mysterious (as well as originating concepts of nature as such).

There’s a great distance of mind (cultural evolution, actually) between that and valuing unconventional production or finding importance in novelty. I believe (unconfidently) that the notion of mimesis was a primordially-reproductive conception all the way into modernity. (It seems to me that classical “artistry” was not art in any modern—or post-medieval—sense, but involved an idealized responsibility of fidelity to the given reality of what was represented.) An especially-valued virtue of unprecedented imaginative character expressed in work is certainly modern, if not solely so. In any case, we readily map modern values of individual distinctiveness into reading a lineage because we value that so highly, somewhat regardless of how tradition understood itself (unless that’s our aim: to capture how tradition understood itself, treasuring fidelity to the distant other—a somewhat mimetic venture, it seems to me—which is the original hermeneutical aim, whose paradigm is Biblical exegesis, which pretends to retrieve the “original” word undistorted by Time).

For my purposes, I want a high sense of ‘creativity’, an idealizing model; simply, for the present, I render that as: prospect of appealing originality (beyond expressive novelty), which is a capsule definition I make in long light of influence by Howard Gardner, Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi (“chick-sent-me-high”; “MC” hereafter), and others. Gardner and MC understand creativity in a 3-fold way: relative to (1) actualized talent: gaining excellent expressive novelty, relative to a medium or interplay of media; and (2) working to turn out work that’s original (expressing relatively-unprecedented domain mastery), which (3) is durably appealing, i.e., showing promise of reasonably-lasting field influence.

However, much good can be promoted through common senses of ‘creativity’ such that children and adults can be more-or-less “creative,” according with relative (age-typical and domain-typical) standards. But I want to play toward an ambitious sense of creative fidelity, drawing any ontogenic sense of creativity (e.g., “cultivated curiosity as venturous constructivism,” I mentioned earlier) into a large landscape of interdomainal or intergenric venturing (though not now) that takes reflective interest to heart. Literary work seems exemplary to me (which I’ll dwell with elsewhere later, but soon).

A reflectivity of creative interest is expressed in notions of creativity as such, and this especially interests me: to understand creativity as such (which especially interested Gardner and MC). Creativity is like improvisational dance: Letting options fly is the only way to discover new ways of moving. But one’s likely to cross the boundaries of the dance space, trip over something, or hit a wall. Perhaps, only seeing the video of it the next day allows one to realize what one was searching for. Creativity welcomes what may seen initially idiosyncratic, if not senseless. Let it be!

But creativity in itself (unto itself—‘unto’ is an odd word) may not be especially interested in capturing a sense of itself as such. Ironically, creativity in itself is transparent to itself as such, given over to what the creativity is about. This gets paradoxical in art that dwells with the parameters of its medium, but that (e.g., formalism or conceptualism about the medium) may not be about itself as creative inquiry, though anything is fair game in creativity, of course. Lots of art is about its being-aboutness. Originality in science may need to be essentially reflective about its assumptions of inquiry, as well as its assumptions of theory. This becomes vital for teaching (in light of analytical lucidity about how work has gone well).

For shorthand, I’ll refer to the Flow of creativity as the transparency of creative work, of creating (which, again, may include interest in the pretenses of itself).

FIDELITY TO-AND-FOR CREATIVITY: for the sake of advancing creativity

In my obsessing about constructive self expansion in good individuation, I’ve had an implicit, but orienting, interest in creative fidelity. Building flexible adaptability through childhood involves a secure sense of detaching from situations (and others), as well as easy attachment—an increasingly easy interplay of attachment (or bonding) and detachment, expressed later in easy interplay of things and ideas.

In good individuation, one’s sense of what’s fitting in play is increasingly owned, rather than given. One’s preferred interests, situations, and domains thereby gain easier entrance into plays of context, which may help enable later good plays of mind (an improvisational contextualism), because security of attachment/bonding and detachment applies to what one identifies with (openness toward disclosing hidden presumptions), as well as what is strange (openness to “risky” engagement), due to a secure sense of free play built and broadened through good growth.

The intrinsic value of growing well may gain us capability to follow through efficaciously by richly imagining, aspiring, and idealizing. Easily feeling free to take constructive risks with opportunities and supports (which I earlier associated with enactive valuing) more easily leads to project-ive engagements. Self-corrective learning is less likely to threaten one’s self esteem or identity, which leads to easier self reflective situations. One welcomes a dissolution of certainties in recognition of the good of reframing and amending, partly because the process of growth has its own appeal.

FIDELITY OF CREATIVITY: creativity itself as fidelity to its “autonomous” character

I mentioned, last October, William Carlos Williams’ avowal of “an intrinsic movement of [the poet’s] own / with such intensity of perception that it lives / to verify its authenticity.”

Self-possession can be recursively generative or manifoldly enflowering in an inquirial odyssey of discovery, be it conceptual (then theoretical) or artistic.

Non-critical immersion in one’s own worktime can feel wholly as if “now” is all the chance there’ll ever be to gain an emergence, and that’s welcomed, as if that immersion is The Final Hour, yet the time is full of promise.

Though I may have plenty of time later to sketch again, entrancement makes me forget that, as if an inspiration may never return (because there’s no need: now is It—and enough). The result of The Moment may feel exactly right, calling for no possibility of revision.

But the next day arrives; yesterday was not The Final Hour; and the unquestionable work needs major change that was invisible to yesterday’s entrancement. Fine. The work to rework is better for having been innocent of its boundaries. The wholly immersed entrancement yielded so much, some “bad,” unwittingly portending mitosis in the morning (e.g., routing away parts to other projects or recognizing that earlier parts of other projects belong in the present one). Later hybriding was maybe impossible without exuberant excess in The Moment.

The exuberance is a generativity of the Flow state, like the software programmer “wired in,” as if nothing else can gain one’s time. The intensity can be exhausting, but only because the work is seductive, analogous, maybe, to memories of endorphins from earlier climbing to a desired peak which “calls” in the current climb.

“What else to live for, but that?”

I’m drawn into a mental gravity of possible cohering that’s fulfilled enough in worktime (in worktime enough) that the appeal of doing more feels boundless—I’ve called it synergistic (mirrorplayingly generative) presence, a syneresthesia (neologism would be part of the process for a writer)—such that I’m ready to make a fool of myself regularly—e.g., early October, 2010, blog hyperbole (deleted, now here) about wanting “the whole panoply of human expression: high poetry and street talk, philosophy as if one’s life was at stake, and also erotic pretense; impenetrable efficacy of social style [so outer-directed] and delicacy of heart [inner-directed].”

More soberly (and generally), it’s enjoyment of an inquirial odyssey: “Imaginative pleasure grown from free play of mind embodying open prospects of mystery-dissolving discovery, whose horizon is bounded only by conceivability, elates me. Why not as much scalarity as possible?” (Dec. 28).

Over a year ago, I was delighted to see that one of sociology’s elders topped off his emeritus years with a very individuational book titled The Odyssey Experience: physical, social, psychological, and spiritual journeys. (The synergy of those aspects subtitled belongs to philosophy.) The cover of his book has a photo of Christo’s “running fence” (done shortly northwest of Berkeley, near the Sonoma coastline, I believe), done for the same reason one climbs a mountain.

I do seek a height of communion through scaling a topographic distance. Maybe this seems specious inflation, but the alternative is the conceptual work itself, without trOpical rendering, and that’s upcoming in the distance (which will provide for fewer possible readers up the road, more and more addressing unmet peaks somewhere).

Life is made of choices, as if made from prospected trees of pathways. Is that trite? What’s better to say? Pull down the tomes that said it all before? Unread or forgotten, another generation recapitulates the pretense of being unprecedented. I easily feel as if writing is pointless; I should just read and read, and let the result die when my mind does.

But that’s just lamentation about map reading, which is not to imply staying forever looking at a map (as philosophers so easily do). My recent praise of “potential for transposed dimensionality” is no desire to stay with a rhetoric of potential, but to make it with others’ work (writing from reading, in reading). “An eerie resonance of textual intimacy” is not to bathe in, but to make generative. “Immanent discursive reflectivity” has “your” pages near at hand. “All implicatures belong to The Opening” because I want to be relentless about modes of “exploitation” as part of a holism of the recursive process, again: “daydreaming, elations of imagining, planning, rehearsing, venturing, thinking, enthral, adventure, and transgression—all reveries, all hedonistic leisures.”

All preface.


What can I say. Horizons spite a traveler by ever drawing away, but the round itself evolves in the pretense of there being an end. Any pretense of synergistic culmination transposes into a higher register of beginning.

But that’s about the Flow, not what’s sought.

* * *

During a quick café coffee before grocery shopping Saturday, I typically read a few pages of a book I take with me solely for that purpose, currently Robert Reich’s After Shock: the next economy and America’s future (2010). The superwealthy class (which lobbies against higher taxation) can’t spend all the money that comes their way because there’s so much. The wealth remains stored (or furthers itself through financial gambling), remaining unproductive against the recession. They have no use for so much money, but accumulate it because that’s what everyone is supposed to do, given the opportunity. What else is life for?

Transferring more of their bundles to stimulus programs, created through progressive policies, would create consumer demand, which ends recessions, which stabilizes the environment for lower-risk investment, etc. But one is supposed to own as much as possible, because otherwise, one is very little.

Acquisitive economics (i.e., pure capitalism and consumerism) destroys itself through its dependence on debt (others’ feeding one’s own wealth or one’s own debt feeding others). Most persons lack an ethic of living reasonably well (and contributing to reasonable living of others who produced the chances for wealthy comfort). To be satisfied with less than maximal returns and welcome great support for public goods, one requires an ethic of time that involves non-acquisitive or non-consumerist satisfaction.

These days, there’s lots of attention given to relations of well-being and public policy, but there is timidity in conceptions of well-being because the common ground of well-being is primarily important for resource-strapped public policy.

The price of an SUV can buy more books over a lifetime than the life will likely have time to appreciate. So, what’s the nature of human time that we are so free to define? We can’t buy sensibility, only fund its growth or grow it ourselves.

What’s an ethic that’s really worth valuing in a life really lived “well,” from a “good” perspective?

Language of a life is a tangled weave of the life of our language. And so, you have the analysts who doctor weaves.

The relatively odd ones who tend to choose solitude are curiosities not very implicative for “economic recovery,” as spending inner-directed time can be easily contrary to outer-directed economic productivity.

So, the readers are useless, except as consumers; and the academics who don’t catalyze the system (e.g., those humanists) can seem like works in a museum, awaiting sparse time from high leisure.

* * *

Why did we humans fabricate such words as ‘comprehensive’ and ‘encyclopedic’? What did we want? Control? Ensurance? Fulfillment? “encyclopedic....: related words: all-comprehensive, all-embracing, all-inclusive, complete; extensive, general; discursive.”

He retains discursive humility by keeping in mind a bright reader who has no interest in what he desires. Presuming the validity of the common reader’s choices (the obvious integrity of their life), what is the validity of what he’s doing? It’s not to be an easily-accessible exemplarity that provides generalizable models for ethical life. At best, a good example of whatever, a good example can be derived. But it can’t be done by expecting influence.

Anyway, questions of practical purpose are always near to mind, but a project must go its own way before taking too seriously others’ reliance on ostensibles. Concern for practicality belongs in “pure” work, to my mind, but the work isn’t motivated by anticipated practicality.

Presuming what possible vehicles will traverse an unfound route is not the way to discover new pathways.

I do want practicality, in the long run. I want to say things about what action-orienting policies may be implied by (and entailed by) high scalarity understanding of who we’re becoming. There is practicality in pursuing my “human interest in conditions for the possibility of inquirial discovery, creativity, and innovation....”

Years ago, I coined ‘speciealty’ to pleasantly allude to the implausible pretense of possible philosophical inquiry, its being the special case (idiosyncratic at worst) of our species taking on questions of our nature without likely exemplarity of seafaring (let alone results).

Philosophy, then, is ultimately a specieal interest inhabited by inquirers willing to look like fools at heart, pursuing our nature by inquiry into the nature of our pursuing. It’s our nature to produce such fools—not especially useful for economic recovery. But maybe continuing the desire for comprehensive comprehension can be osmotically fruitful for valuing mindfulness, holism, and granting others benefits of the doubt that lead to discovery which may contribute indirectly to a healthy society that may ensure a full scale of sustainability—for a high scalarity of creative life, for social innovation that results from that or for distributed neighborhoods, including uphill groups defined by interdomainal research, including further uphill comprehensive thinking in university life for the sake of our uncapturable, pointillistic (punctuated, disequilibrational) evolving.

Anyway, rhetorical runarounds can be good for one’s so-called soul.

Over a year ago, I expressed a sense of ethical life “relative to a high sense of Self interest,” but shied away from pursuit of my preferred interests (though my rhetoric may have seemed otherwise) for the sake of establishing a sense of living well (albeit merely my sense) that roots itself in a sense of creative human development (or at least a creative sense of human development). My continuing interest in grounding ethical life in the values of creative self development necessarily reaches a point of prevailing fidelity to my creative interests, without inhibition by caring to be a good example.

This season, the Berkeley Art Museum has a show of the “studio work” of post-minimalist artist Eva Hesse, at the height of her brief career when I was an undergraduate major in philosophy (which was professionally inhabited by conceptual post-minimalism).

There is topology in the ostensibility of her work—conceptual trOpicality. Her courageous materiality was conceptual gardening with no regard for trend. The origin of the work of art is never in anticipations of what exemplar it may become.

What kind of example is the work of art?—not as a work of art, but the example that worklife may be, the lifework of doing art? The short life of Eva is a heartbreaker.

Years ago, I was fond of quoting Heidegger from his “Origin of the Work of Art”: “Art is history in the essential sense that it is the ground of history.” He went for very high ground.


Understanding you, understanding materials, texts, conceptuality, modes, topographies—understanding things in light of you, understanding others through their work, understanding ourselves through shared things—fidelity in creativity is a mirrorplay of kinds, one enkindering enabled by another, as loving in general is some emergent kindness of many loves, each kind experimental at first because we’re absolute beginners, then experimental in the distance because growing life is mysterious, as if beginning never ends.

In complement to fidelity in creativity is creativity applied to fidelity. I shy away from saying “creativity in fidelity” because (or when) I don’t want an overtone of “infidelity,” a silly avoidance because the notion of infidelity haunts me as a relativity of understanding, e.g., in the notion of love as letting go. What I might have written wholeheartedly can have been wrong but thereby no less well-intended, if misreading things unwittingly later secures the contrareality as what was not the case, finally. “It’s clear now,” but only the inspiration that later found itself invalid—yet wholly valid as The Moment of its fruition—could have established what is truly there, distinct from the earlier validity of venturing.

Realizing that someone else will never understand doesn’t require any show of that beyond letting them go proudly away as if I must be what distances them.

In parenting, say, or teaching, infidelity to “our” understanding may implicitly show great fidelity to “your” emerging autonomy, like accepting a student’s anger that the parent wouldn’t allow. “You are an art that wasn’t seen by them,” as they require their child to remain theirs, according with their instilled conception. So, he shows infidelity to their contrary understanding of that and suffers the result. “I saw more possibility in you than you would appreciate, because—otherwise—presumptions you so needed would no longer have secured a wide weave of engagements you so needed.”

In complement to fidelity in creativity is a numinous creativity in fidelity: finding artistry in another’s improvisations, finding potential in material that’s not yet married into a freestanding combine, honoring a poem through transmutation, or bringing together a motley crew of rhetorics whose anticipated synergy portends original Opening.

Intimacies of time intimated in resonant relations are at best heartful openings.

Much less is required for understanding another’s suffering, yet even there—Jodi Halpern’s keynoteimaginability of the other’s possible place (stance, inhabitation, history, or self conception) is essential to empathy, and empathy is borne in a sense of another’s potential for life remaining, be it decades or days.

Not only may creativity be valid relative to fidelity; aspects of fidelity may be essentially creative as fidelity by orienting one to highly valuing contribution (if not highly contributing) to others’ self realizations—or fidelity to evincing potentials in relations of “things” (meaning, matters, situations, etc.). Importance of enabling may prevail in human relationship, e.g., in good parenting, teaching, friendship, organizational life, and neighborhood. More modestly, creativity may be constitutive for a mode of fidelity to things as they are, yet in attunement to possibilities and potentials.

Comprehensive comprehension of oneself or another, oneself with another, may be never fulfilled, but the appeal is real: to enown all the aspects of being alive—light and dark; idealization and Eros; enchantments of imaginability and scary appeals of transgression— better living through a glass lightly, yet in bed with virtues of dark appeal in creative discovery.

Maybe that’s the primordial appeal of literary minds: at last to wholly know.




  Be fair. © 2017, gary e. davis