The Ghost in the Machine: Creativity

Screen Shot 79On the first day of a new semester, I’d ask my freshman biology class to take out a piece of paper and write the answer to this question:

What is life?

And I’d collect their ratty-edged pages ripped from fresh-empty new notebooks and read a half dozen of their responses out loud.

“Life is when something can move and not be dead.” (Duh)

“Life is a way that living things grow and reproduce.”

And so on. Living things eat, react to stimuli, behave in some way depending on their complexity.  Yes, all these scraps of paper tell us what living things DO. But the question was “What is LIFE?”

This Friday at the Jacksonville Center in Floyd, the Floyd Arts Dialogue will be discussing creativity and I’ll be moderating one more time until Charlie Brouwer returns to take the reins again.

More on this tomorrow, but my point here this morning is that, after trying to wrap my head around this, attempting to say what creativity IS–to DEFINE it–is much harder than offering examples of the consequences of its influence and results in human minds and hands–the fruits of creativity in the arts, in the sciences and in the technologies of modern life.

Like CONSCIOUSNESS, any “final and complete” definition at some future point, I’m thinking, will be only partial if it is reduced to the totally objective–the product of measurement by physics and chemistry.

Can life, consciousness and creativity exist apart from a SUBJECT to manifest that invisible “wind” in ways my students described for our new study of  what BIO makes possible for inanimate matter?

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Fred First holds masters degrees in Vertebrate Zoology and physical therapy, and has been a biology teacher and physical therapist by profession. He moved to southwest Virginia in 1975 and to Floyd County in 1997. He maintains a daily photo-blog, broadcasts essays on the Roanoke NPR station, and contributes regular columns for the Floyd Press and Roanoke's Star Sentinel. His two non-fiction books, Slow Road Home and his recent What We Hold in Our Hands, celebrate the riches that we possess in our families and communities, our natural bounty, social capital and Appalachian cultures old and new. He has served on the Jacksonville Center Board of Directors and is newly active in the Sustain Floyd organization. He lives in northeastern Floyd County on the headwaters of the Roanoke River.

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