Monday, July 16, 2007

Flight of Creativity

The other day, someone who had read my stories told me that I was in the wrong business. According to him, I was a creative person and should find a different and more plausible recourse to my life. This set me off thinking, was I in the wrong profession or was their something more to creativity that my friend was missing?
There were two basic questions I was searching an answer for:
• What is Creativity?
• Is Creativity bound by vocational topics or is it present elsewhere too?
In this write up, I will try and answer some of these questions armed with a self created theory and more supporting information from the Internet.
Creativity is a mental process involving the generation of new ideas or concepts, or new associations between existing ideas or concepts. George Kneller has aptly put that creativity “...consists largely of re-arranging what we know in order to find out what we do not know.”
Creativity is moving knowledge and information to another level, where answers are found and reasons given to problems. It has been attributed to cognitive processes, social strictures, personality traits, and sometimes accident. Newton was hit by falling apples, to bring about gravity as a concept.
From a scientific point of view, the creative outcome has both appropriateness and originality. An alternative, more everyday conception of creativity is that it is simply the act of making something new. So can creativity be mixed with innovation?
Creativity for starters, is the act of producing new ideas and methods or actions, while innovation is the process of both generating and applying such creative ideas in some specific context. Innovation by virtue of its name includes completion of a creative thought to existence. Innovation and creativity have a reverse correlation between them. Innovation encompasses creativity, whereas creativity might not include innovation.
That brings us to the question; does one have to be intelligent to be creative? I guess not, although creative people historically have shown traits different than common. Some researchers believe that creativity is the outcome of the same cognitive processes as intelligence, and is only judged as creativity in terms of its outcome, i.e. when the outcome of cognitive processes happens to produce something novel.
Fred Balzac, in his study in 2006, said that creative innovation requires, “ activation and communication between regions of the brain that ordinarily are not strongly connected.” He further illustrates that creative people, have three important traits –
1. They have high level of Specialized Knowledge.
2. They are capable of divergent thinking, mediated by the frontal lobe of the brain.
3. They are able to modulate neurotransmitters in the frontal lobe.
If the above traits and the language do not mean much to you, then it is perfectly okay. All Fred Balzac was trying to say was that the frontal lobe of the brain appears to be the nerve centre for creative impulses in a person. On a lighter note, it is imperative to understand creative people do not have horns protruding from their foreheads, thanks to the hyper activity of the frontal lobe.
Fred Balzac was trying to creatively solve the problem of the essence of creativity. So that brings us to creativity as a tool to problem solving. Creative problem solving requires more than just the knowledge and thinking. It is a process, where the solution is independently created rather than learned with assistance.
Creative process and thus the result, is multi-dimensional. Once solved, it seems that the solution was always visible; it was just that we had to relook at it. This mystery keeps creativity just the inch beyond the grasp of conclusive scientific investigation. Due to this mysterious reason, reliable and quantitative methods of calculating the creativity quotient have not been made.
So what are the qualitative trademarks of a creative person? As my father puts it, humility to learn is the most basic. The person has to be humble enough to put his knowledge aside and think of better ways to achieve the goal.
Let me explain this topic with an example. Planets revolve around the sun in an orbit. Sun due to its immense magnetic field attracts them. But planets do not fall into the sun. They maintain course of their orbit, due to a certain orbital velocity, which creates a force which negates the sun’s magnetism.
But if one day, a planet decided to be creative and leave its orbit and breakaway from the solar system, it would need force to cancel the sun’s magnetism. This force would be generated from a velocity, which is called the break-away velocity. The value of this break-away velocity actually would define how far the planet would be able to go. Thus, we can say, that the delta or difference between orbital and break-away velocities, defines creativity of the planet.

In our daily lives, we are like the planet, running around bound by societal, industry, or work strictures and norms. Those of us, who are content in living in defined boundaries, would continue with their orbital velocity and survive. But those of us, who say, enough is enough, and decide to do something new and stranger to fiction, are called creative. These people are sometimes referred to as dreamers, pioneers, or idiots, as per the maturity levels prevalent in the society. These people are always looking for their break-away velocity.
I had once read that most progress is made by those who hardly work than those who are hard working. On the outset, the thought is interesting and nothing more. But look at it with the light of this theory of orbital and break-away velocities in our daily lives, and you try and find the theory to be plausible.
The theory promotes radical thought as recourse to survival within strictures. And history has shown that radical thought is creativity in action. It brings a new order and thus creates new balances.
Imagine if someone would not have thought of wings for humans to fly, Wright Brothers would have invented the aero planes. And if, Turner had not thought of breaking away from the Cricketing fraternity by promoting his brand of Colorful cricket, we wouldn’t have had the high adrenaline one day matches.
Radical thought is important for growth of the mind and personality. But all this is true, if used for the good of the society. And this is where the dark lining in the otherwise sparkling white cloud of creativity comes in. It makes creativity a double edged sword. If used in negative connotation, creativity can be more lethal than any weapon. Every time a new weapon is created to protect, a new weapon comes up for destruction. So the important point is to use creativity intelligently.
But wait a minute, we started off by this vague comment by a friend on me being creative, and where have we ended up at? We have gone scientific, philosophical, and explored ambiguity in this flight of creativity. After writing all this, I sure think, that the horn on forehead theory is correct. It’s just that it is not visible to mere mortals.

Sunday, July 01, 2007

Krishna – The Strategist: A Viewpoint

In my last write up I had spoken about how Arjuna had taken the cushion of the teachings of Karma Yoga in the Bhagwat Gita, to fight the war of Mahabharata. It was a clinching argument for all those who shut themselves off from reality to retain their sanity, but were in no way escapists.
Yesterday, while chatting with a colleague, it occurred to me that in the current scenario, Lord Krishna and his political maneuverings in the Mahabharata had a lot of relevance. Hearing me speak about Lord Krishna as a human-like, political strategist did not go down well with him. When I came back and discussed the same with my family, they blamed it all on the pop culture. So I decided to understand and put forth my view-point of the life and times of Lord Krishna through the most political literature of Indian mythology – the Mahabharata.
When the Pandava’s acceded to the throne of Indraprastha, they honored their cousin Krishna. They were indebted to Krishna’s support in getting them to power, when the kingdom was ruled by their blind uncle Dhritrashtra, who was keener to pass on the throne to his son Duryodhana.
Pandava’s and Kaurava’s were faced with sibling rivalries since childhood. Be it while learning weaponry or the shastra’s. Since, their father was at the helm of things in the kingdom, the Kaurava’s led by Duryodhana, did not appreciate their paternal cousins, hogging all lime-light due to sympathy on the demise of their father Pandu.
This rivalry grew with age and became increasingly evident. Dhritrashtra was now faced with a difficult question of dividing the kingdom between his sons and those of his late brother Pandu. At this moment, entered Krishna, who was a cousin of the Pandava’s and had by then earned a name for himself, through his accession to the throne in a neighboring kingdom. He had since childhood displayed some actions which had earned him great respect amongst his kin. He had truly risen to be Lord Krishna – an incarnate of Lord Vishnu.
Krishna was gifted with a great sense of understanding of the inter-play of emotions between his fellow humans. He had a good timing and used it well too. So, when he saw Dhritrashtra’s dilemma he entered the scene. He advised the two families that continuing with the single kingdom would not be possible for long. A partition was necessary. Dhritrashtra was a blind king and did not have the courage to handle a discord of mammoth proportions. So after many maneuverings, he divided the kingdom between the Pandava’s and the Kaurava’s.
Krishna had arrived in the political scene as a cousin, and now a statesman. His hands on approach and good judgments had earned him enough respect from the Pandava’s and a section of the Kaurava’s.
At the coronation of the eldest of the Pandava’s, Yudhishtra, Krishna was the center of attraction and was being showered with praises. His contemporary, Shishupal, who was present there, did not like this special attention being accorded to Krishna. He was jealous.
Krishna, like any of us, could not take the increasingly incendiary abuses from Shishupal. He wanted to teach the man a lesson, but could not. He and Shishupal did not go well since childhood. Krishna’s meteoric rise irked Shishupal. This did not go amiss from Shishupal’s mother, who made Krishna promise her that he would forgive a hundred blemishes of her son.
At the coronation, Krishna’s hands were tied. He could not do anything to Shishupal, who was abusing him hard and fast. Krishna’s reputation was taking a hit. He had to do something to redeem him, and that too in a big way.
He let Shishupal abuse him a hundred times and then told him that his hundred lives were over. He told all who were attending about his promise to Shishupal’s mother. And then he killed him. This was Krishna’s first test and had done well to establish himself as a no nonsense player. Soon Krishna’s popularity rose and he became known as a trusted aide of the Pandava’s.
But fresh power and prosperity led to Yudhishtra becoming complacent. He did not consult Krishna much now. He wanted to assert himself as the King. And he committed a grave mistake by accepting Duryodhana’s invite to a game of dice. He did not consult Krishna, who did not take it nicely. He backed off and let the Pandava’s lose and commit hara-kiri.
When a distraught Yudhishtra lost Draupadi in the game everyone present was taken for a surprise. Krishna was sent an urgent message for help. But since he had not been consulted or invited to the game, Krishna refused. Draupadi and her family begged him and after much convincing, Krishna agreed to help. He came to the scene as a trouble shooter and retorted all attempts at Draupadi’s disrobing.
Having lost in the game of dice, Pandava’s were struck with the reality, that they had lost their land and wife both. They asked Krishna for help and begged forgiveness for ignoring him earlier. Krishna accepted their apologies as it redeemed his stature now.
He negotiated a deal with Dhritrashtra and the Kaurava’s. As per the deal, Pandava’s would go for an exile for 13 years and Duryodhana would be the King of Indraprastha. On his side, Duryodhana and Kaurava’s would absolve their claim on Draupadi. Krishna’s deal was acceptable to the Kaurava’s, and Pandava’s did not have an
While Pandava’s proceeded for the exile, Krishna stayed back in his kingdom. After 13 years when Duryodhana refused to give back the land to Pandava’s, Krishna faced his first setback. He told all that an all consuming war was looming large. His credibility as a statesman and negotiator was hurt. Duryodhana led Kaurava’s ridiculed the idea of returning even five villages to the Pandava’s.
The war was now a reality. Both Kaurava’s and Pandava’s had built alliances amongst their friends.
Krishna expected support for Pandava’s from his brother Balrama. But he refused to side with either of the parties. This was another jolt to Krishna’s strategy.
So hurt with two immediate setbacks, Krishna needed to redeem himself. So he gave the army to Kaurava’s and himself took up the role of a driver and guide for Arjuna. He had to use his full political guile to win for the Pandava’s and for himself too.
Rules of engagement were decided amongst the advisors and the on the day of the war, just before first light Arjuna led by Krishna arrived at Kurukshetra.
Arjuna had 2 motives for the war. He wanted his land back, and also had to fight for Draupadi’s honor. But being an intelligent strategist he knew, his opponents were his brothers, relatives, and teachers. And if, he fought and subsequently killed them, he would go down history as a villain. So he played to Krishna’s honor.
Krishna, who had been hurt by the twin setbacks earlier, got Arjuna’s dilemma as a third quick hit. He had to ensure a clear cut victory for the Pandava’s for everybody’s sake. But primarily a victory would be beneficial for his stature amongst his kin and Yadava brothers.
So he preached Arjuna, the Bhagwat Gita, thus giving him a shield to hide behind if faced with historical backlash. When Arjuna’s dilemma was not diminishing, he showed him his “Virat Roop” as a nudge to join him for the war; if he would not join, Krishna now had the resolve to win the war on his own. Now Arjuna had a reason to be back in the war or be called a coward in history. Krishna had maneuvered his first small victory.
More than being Arjuna’s driver, Krishna was now manipulating the entire goings on of the war. He knew Arjuna had two real nemeses in the opposing camp – Karna and Bhishma.
He tricked Karna through Indra, who disguised as a beggar, asked Karna to give him his armor. Karna was caught off guard with his generous self ruling in favor of the beggar’s request. With his special armor gone Karna was a sitting duck for Arjuna’s attack.
When Arjuna’s son Abhimanyu was tricked into the Chakravyuha by the Kaurava’s, Krishna had to ensure a quick and equally emphatic retaliation; else the Pandava’s would have been lost due to their grief.
He tricked Jaidrath, a Big Kaurava General, and continued the war well into darkness when a solar eclipse was happening. As per the rules of engagement the war had to stop at sunset. Jaidrath who by now was surrounded heaved a sigh of relief. But suddenly with the sun coming out of the eclipse, ensured his killing by Arjuna to take revenge of Abhimanyu’s merciless killing at the hands of Kaurava’s. Krishna through his guile and knowledge had ensured to reduce the loss of Abhimanyu.
Now with Karna out of the way, and Jaidrath’s revenge killing, Krishna had to play a master move to remove Bhishma from the play of events.
Bhishma was now very old and was not very much in favor of the war and Kaurava’s. He was supporting whoever sat on the throne. Knowing this Krishna sent messengers to ask Bhishma how to kill him. Bhishma quipped that only Shikhandi could make him set down his weapons. This let down by Bhishma was enough for Krishna to bring Shikhandi into play by asking her the question of honor and revenge on Bhishma. With Shikhandi present with Arjuna, Bhishma let down his weapons, only to be injured into submission by Arjuna’s attacks. Krishna had now removed the biggest hurdle in the war.
With all major players out of the way, Krishna sent Bheema after Duryodhana. And in the final fight between the two equal warriors, Krishna advised Bheema to break another rule of engagement in the war. He reminded Bheema of Draupadi’s insult by Duryodhana, and advised him to hit his thigh. Hit below the belt, a bewildered Duryodhana lost the fight and was killed.
The Kaurava army was now in disarray and Krishna extracted revenge and put himself as a King-maker and master strategist. He had used guile and chinks in the rules of engagement of the war to ensure victory for the Pandava’s.
With the war over, Pandava’s got their land, and also that of Kaurava’s. Krishna had played his role the prime. Soon after he moved to his state and continued to consult and benefit from the Pandava’s.
Like all best laid plans have an error, he too had miscalculated one important point in the war. His kin, the Yadava’s were now a divided lot. Part of them who had supported the Kaurava’s, denounced Krishna.
A war ensued between Krishna supporters and nay sayers leading to a destruction of the entire dynasty. A shaken Krishna went to the forest to plan his return, in this suddenly gloomy political scenario. But as luck would have it, he was accidently killed by a hunter who mistook his toe thumb as the eye of a deer.
But how does a toe thumb resemble the eye of a deer? I believe the entire killings in the Mahabharata and subsequent internal strife between the Yadava’s had taken its toll on Krishna. He left for the forest, never to return.
Krishna used his guile and in depth knowledge of the Raj Dharma, to help him out through all situations. His teachings of Karma Yoga and Bhakti Yoga have been of immense importance to one and all. And all throughout, his approach was almost common sense that one can relate to it in similar contemporary situations.
Once, after establishing his kingdom at Dwarka, he sent his good friend Uddhao to invite Radha and her friends. But Radha and her friends chided Uddhao away, telling him that Krishna lived in their hearts. Like wise, as I sum up from his almost human like existence and common sense approach to life, I feel Krishna resides in all of us. Most of our actions at work and outside, although contemporary and inspired are just like his; all we have to do is to find him from the depths of our hearts.