Gnomicon 213

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Introduction to Gnomica.

Gnomicon  213
Tuesday 11 December 2012
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In art as in love instinct is enough.
Anatole France (16 Apr 1920 – 12 Oct 1924)

His (aka François-Anatole Thibault) is an intriguing proposition, and one hesitates to question an author of his stature (he was awarded the Nobel Prize in literature for 1921) — but I’m really not sure I buy it.

I know that according to current educational theory what we do so wrong in our schools these days is to kill creativity.  Creativity!  Creativity?  And just what is that?  Is it just another word for ‘instinct’?  What good is creativity if you don’t have the wherewithal to give expression to it?  I’m sorry, but certainly in art I simply do not accept that you do not need technique. Again, there are modern ‘schools’ that will find this antediluvian notion of mine beyond anathema … and I thank them for the many (to me) amusing cons that are ‘modern’ art of one sort or another.  And, no, I don’t mean Picasso’s cubism, which is not without interest, and in fact makes eminent sense when seen (in more than one sense) against the backdrop of Impressionism and especially the severe stranglehold of strictures associated with the Académie des Beaux-Artsand the nineteenth century salons in France. (But one must not forget that it was precisely the fostering of that kind of discipline – coupled with ‘instinct’ aka ‘creativity’ –that led to the great works of masters like David and Ingres – the latter an absolute favorites of mine).

Actually, I did talk about some of these notions in an earlier posting.

And as for ‘instinct’ (= creativity sans technique) being ‘enough’ when it comes to love, well, this is probably not the proper venue for entangling myself in that imbroglio …

True, there are those rare geniuses who seem to have been born knowing how to play the piano or hold the paint brush or score in the athletic arena, and possibly for those types France’s comments merit serious consideration.  But not in the case of most:  thus, I simply do not accept that some of the world’s finest writers, painters, athletes who have truly excelled have achieved their distinctions without long and often arduous apprenticeships under demanding task masters.  No, not that training guarantees ultimate success in any endeavor, but such success would seem to me far more often than not to be more likely achieved with the requisite training – and a dash of pure luck.

I take France’s observation as a reasonable starting point for going at the latest (to my mind mindlessly) deleterious theories in the matter – of the kind I recently came across, and respectfully disagree with in strongest terms possible.  Imagine expecting a pianist to have practiced scales or an artist to have learned about complementary colors – both, obviously, utter killers of creativity!  Instinct alone just won’t cut it for that pilot landing your Airbus A380 at O’Hare, or your surgeon working on you at Mercy Hospital – I don’t care how creative each is in her field – no more than for the most creative portrait painter!

Mine is no doubt a dated understanding of learning, but I categorically reject – not the ends sought – but the means to get there:  yes I think it’s great for people to be creative, but I do not think you can teach that.  Like happiness and that other bête-noire of today’s cutting-edge educational theory and practice, self-esteem, creativity is in my opinion the by-product of doing other things right.  And what you can do right is teach how to write and how to articulate in coherent strings of words, sentences and paragraphs what you do think and such creative ideas as you do have.  Frankly, again, what earthly good is all your wondrous creativity if you cannot communicate it to yourself, to your contemporaries, to the future?  And often this kind of learning, this kind of anesthetizing creativity-killer, can (but, I think, need not) be tedious, tiresome, repetitive.


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One Response to Gnomicon 213

  1. Al Cram says:

    Great! i agree. There was a great book basically showing the “talent” is over rated. It points out that Amedeus Mozart was schooled by his father from a VERY early age. He wrote music at an early age but there is strong evidence his early works were either done my his father or at the very least edited for the better by his father. Some experts agree that the first work that is clearly his and is still acknowledged as a masterpiece actually came at albout the same point in his experience as the great works of other “geniuses” it’s just that his journey began at a much younger age than the others. In looking at musician performance it is clear from studies done in Germany, that those that ultimately become concert grand masters at their instruement actually have put in many more hours of practice time than those that never quite reach that leve of performance. The same tends to be true in athletic performance. Part of their talent appears to be that they enjoy or are at least wiiling to do what they have to do to develop their potential to it’s fullest. If we don’t give students today the skils at writing and expressing themselves that they need to communicate it won’t matter whether they are creative or not.

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