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Want to improve creativity? Then pursue friendships and experiences that are more diverse and cross-cultural, according to research by Van de Vyver and Crisp (“Crossing Divides: The friends who are good for your brain,” BBC).

So we see the same essential point being made over and over again, since the middle of the nineteenth century at least. Ruskin, Illich, and Franklin all see that there are technologies that liberate human creativity, that enable human power, and, by contrast, technologies that enslave us, that force our very being into conformity with their codes and structures.

Alan Jacobs, “John Ruskin: Fit the Third and Last” (May 27, 2018)

In Jacobs’s final Text Patterns post.

Love might be your downfall; it opens you to all kinds of wonders and perils. … Imagination is just a mess. Why, it’s a veritable jellyroll of hope and yearning all spiraled together, and that sticky filling will get all over your suave exterior. …

If we dare to choose whole-heartedness, we release creativity from the strangulation of Cool and make it an offering for God’s kingdom purposes. And make no mistake: what we model as parents implicitly shapes our children’s entire approach. I want myself and my children to risk vulnerability. To dare earnest hope. To let our whole hearts get into our work without an exit strategy, instead of putting forth a little nub that can be pulled back at a moment’s notice.

Kathleen Shumate, “Daring to be Whole-Hearted,” Story Warren (Jun 4, 2018)

The Power of Introverts /

Notes from Susan Cain’s talk, “The power of introverts,” at TED2012:

  • Introverts have gotten the message that a quiet style of being is not right
  • Many introverts, like Susan Cain, adopt self-negating lifestyle choices to pass as extroverts
  • But it’s everyone’s loss
  • We need introverts for creativity and leadership
  • Introversion is about feeling most alive and capable in quiet environments
  • It’s about stimulation, not shyness (a fear of social judgment)
  • Modern classrooms and workplaces promote “groupthink” as the source for creativity and productivity, instead of solitude, despite research
  • Introverted leaders often deliver better outcomes than extroverts (Adam Grant research) because they let proactive employees run with their ideas
  • Introversion/extroversion is a spectrum (and those in the middle are ambiverts?)
  • Groups need a balance
  • Solitude is a crucial ingredient to creativity and revelation
  • Groups, on the other hand, tend to follow dominant or charismatic people, though there’s no correlation between being the best speaker and having the best ideas
  • Western societies used to value people for character, a strong inner life and rectitude, but now it’s about personality and proving oneself
  • Of course social skills are important, but introverts need to be given freedom to come up with solutions to today’s problems
  • When Susan Cain’s grandfather died — he was a rabbi who read, taught and loved his people quietly for 62 years — the streets were blocked with people who came to mourn him
  • We are on the brink of changing our attitudes to introversion, quiet and solitude, so,
    1. Stop the madness for constant group work
    2. Go to the wilderness and have your own revelations (get inside your own head a little more often)
    3. Take a good look at what’s inside your “suitcase” and why, and open it up for other people to see

Alexandra Dempsey, “Manoush Zomorodi: Unlocking Your Creative Potential with Boredom,” Freedom Matters (Oct 6, 2017)

“Finding Your Way to ‘Other Time’”: Music for Imagination /

From Doug McKelvey, “Finding Your Way to ‘Other Time’” at The Rabbit Room.

… Music, it will be seen (or rather heard) then, is both a transport, and a key into that other kingdom. Or, to put it more literally, music (the right music, mind you) is a secret tunnel that the guardians at the gates of Other Time are unaware of. The enchantment of music will sometimes allow one to bypass the gates and the guardians altogether, and so, simply to arrive at one’s destination. …

What sorts of songs do, and what sorts of songs do not, serve this end? When writing fiction, one requires music that will easily carry one out of the pressing and the daily. One requires music that is capable of stirring emotions and opening new folds of imagination, but that is consistently able to do so without announcing itself too boldly or clamoring too cleverly for attention. …

In the end what you really need (if we may speak bluntly as friends) are songs that will play you. …

Here, presented in the most practical of terms (being a list), and for the benefit of those readers who are also creators, are the transport pieces that I have recently discovered and employed:

  1. Zoë Keating: One Cello x 16: Natoma
  2. Nils Frahm: Felt
  3. Caspian: Hymn for the Greatest Generation
  4. Caspian: Waking Season
  5. Explosions in the Sky: All of a Sudden I Miss Everyone
  6. Explosions in the Sky: Take Care, Take Care, Take Care
  7. Message To Bears: Departures
  8. Message To Bears: Folding Leaves
  9. Message To Bears: Maps
  10. This Will Destroy You: Tunnel Blanket
  11. Eluvium: Copia
  12. Eluvium: Nightmare Ending
  13. Eluvium: Talk Amongst the Trees
  14. Eluvium: An Accidental Memory in the Case of Death
  15. Eluvium: When I Live by the Garden and the Sea

[Read the page for McKelvey’s winsome writing and more music recommendations in the comments. —C.M.H.]

Sarah Clarkson, “A Difficult Generosity,” The Rabbit Room (Jun 16, 2014)

Lamppost in a Snowy Wood /
Illustration by Pauline Baynes
Illustration by Pauline Baynes

It will not go out of my mind that if we pass this post and lantern, either we shall find strange adventures or else some great changes of our fortunes.

―Lucy Pevensie in C. S. Lewis’s The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe

[This is a great moment in literature. A scene of common elements — a lamppost in a snowy wood — becomes a threshold to an “other” place. Even now. —C.M.H.]

“From love of the thing he tells, to love of the telling” /

I also have had to recover from that. It was all a snare. Ink and catgut and paint were necessary down there, but they are also dangerous stimulants. Every poet and musician and artist, but for Grace, is drawn away from love of the thing he tells, to love of the telling till, down in Deep Hell, they cannot be interested in God at all but only in what they say about Him. For it doesn’t stop at being interested in paint, you know. They sink lower — become interested in their own personalities and then in nothing but their own reputations.

—C. S. Lewis, The Great Divorce (78–79)

[These words often come to mind: “drawn away from love of the thing he tells, to love of the telling….” I receive it as correction and needed “Grace.” —C.M.H.]