French Creativity

To understand why the earth is in a mess …

coal_plant

Coal-Fired Electrical Plant: Originally Creative, Now a Technical Model

… an understanding of creativity is necessary. Similarly, to get us out of this mess, we must understand creativity. I’ll be looking at it for a few days. Here’s a French take on the notion:

Le mot est un calque de l’américain « creativity », néologisme des années quarante, sans aucune connotation artistique. Le mot est apparu en français dans les années cinquante chez les psychologues humanistes (à la suite de la découverte par ceux-ci des publications des travaux d’Abraham Maslow et de Carl Rogers) puis les psychanalystes, puis les psychologues.

hanford-billboard-silence-means-security-1

Creativity at the Hanford, Washington Military Plutonium Factory

Here’s a rough translation…

The word is an adoption of the American term “creativity,” a neologism from the 1940s, and has no artistic connotations. The word appeared in French in the 1950s among humanist psychologists (accompanying their discovery of the work of Abraham Maslow and Carl Rogers) as well as psychoanalysis’s and psychologists.

 

05917_celebrity_city_Bridget_Bardot_2_122_498lo

French Actress Bridgit Bardot Being Creative Back in the Day

In this American context, creativity has NO connection with the arts …

selbstportrait-palette-weisser-turban

Rembrandt, Self Portrait with White Turban: NOT creative

… but is the faculty of imagination which enables humans to create useful things that previously did not exist.

cool_kitchen_gadget_1

You Need This ®

Note: Very Creative

Got that? Creativity differs from the skill required to make things which are copies of things that already exist, whether they are hydroelectric dams…

diver

Building Grand Coulee Dam, One Dive at a Time

… built upon successful models, or anything built out of a spiritual world view, which views creation as the property of the divine, which manifests itself in human activity.

 

Maryknoll Father Vincent R. Capodanno, a Navy chaplain who was killed while serving with the Marines in Vietnam, is pictured in an undated photo. As the priest's sainthood cause gathers momentum, he priest was remembered at a Sept. 4 memorial Mass in Washington as a man "completely dedicated to the spiritual care of his Marines." (CNS photo/courtesy Maryknoll Fathers and Brothers) (Sept. 5, 2013) See CAPODANNO Sept. 5, 2013.

Maryknoll Father Vincent R. Capodanno, a Navy chaplain who was killed while serving with the Marines in Vietnam, is pictured in an undated photo. As the priest’s sainthood cause gathers momentum, he priest was remembered at a Sept. 4 memorial Mass in Washington as a man “completely dedicated to the spiritual care of his Marines.” (CNS photo/courtesy Maryknoll Fathers and Brothers) (Sept. 5, 2013) See CAPODANNO Sept. 5, 2013.

 

The creative faculty denies the divine. Here’s how creativity is defined in popular culture:

In a summary of scientific research into creativity, Michael Mumford suggested: “Over the course of the last decade, however, we seem to have reached a general agreement that creativity involves the production of novel, useful products” (Mumford, 2003, p. 110),[1] or, in Robert Sternberg‘s words, the production of “something original and worthwhile”.[2]

02

Or as the French put it…

Elle peut être plus précisément définie comme « un processuspsychologique ou psycho-sociologique par lequel un individu ou un groupe d’individus témoigne [d’imagination et] d’originalité dans la manière d’associer des choses, des idées, des situations et, par la publication du résultat concret de ce processus, change, modifie ou transforme la perception, l’usage ou la matérialité auprès d’un public donné. »

military_woman_france_wwii_000005

French Resistance Fighter, WWII

Rough translation …

It can be more accurately defined as “a psychological or psycho-sociological process by which an individual or a group of individuals testifies the presence of [imagination and] originality in the combination of things, ideas and situations and by publishing the concrete result of this process, change, modify or transform its perception, use or material  manifestation to a specific audience.”

Nazi-Girls-1

In other words, as the French understand the American point of view, creativity is a social perception, based upon the manipulation of shared assumptions within a society; in no way is it a universal human characteristic, and in no way does it supplant the power of the spiritual world.

chartres_cathedral_interior_choir02

Choir, Chartres Cathedral

To the humanistic French, creativity is a part of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, a form of American psychological understanding which posits that human needs span a range from basic needs to extraordinary and refined one, in such a way that no needs can be met until more basic ones have been fulfilled. Below is a graphic that shows how it works. You’ll note that creativity is one of the apex needs, only realizable within the concept of self-actualization, and only after esteem, love/belonging, safety and physiological needs have been met.

450px-Maslow's_Hierarchy_of_Needs.svg

We can assume that in Maslow’s conception, and in the term creativity that comes from it, no creative action is possible without first more primary needs being met. To put that another way, creativity and self-actualization are identical in this schema. Practically, that means (for example) that a mother’s love of her children, or a farmer’s love of her land and the ability to create food from it, are creative acts only if the mother or farmer acts out of self interest; if the act is out of interest for the child or the land, it is not creative, except in that caring for a child is caring for one’s genes, so that’s good.

Mother-Child_face_to_face

This is Not Love. This is Self-Interested Gene Protective Creativity Source

What’s more, the activity of the land, its ability to bring forth food, is not considered creative. In the world of creativity, land and soil look like this.

P2140199

Intriguingly, Maslow’s graphic can be viewed differently, as a hierarchy that doesn’t climax at the actualized self, but at full embeddedness, like this:

pyramid2

In other words, following the French line of reasoning, those items to the left (self-actualization, esteem, love/belonging, safety, and physiological needs) are culturally specific. After all, they can be replaced with ones that are their direct opposites (Self as world, self as others, interpersonal self, embedded physical self, and physical self.), without disturbing the hierarchy in any way. If they’re culturally specific, however, they aren’t humanly universal. The French are aware of that. They reserve creativity for spirit. This is a bit of a difficult fix, though, because the word, in all its American strength, does not mean that. It means this:

il_fullxfull.375786460_otbx

Tomorrow: German creativity. Note: it also differs from the American definition, and also in culturally specific ways.

 

 

4 thoughts on “French Creativity

  1. Pingback: Creativity and Environment: The Story So Far | Okanagan Okanogan

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s