Scholarship is not an enterprise limited to just one dimension. Or one discipline. That is why education has incorporated multiple fields of study for centuries. Included in the curriculum as distinct fields, overlapping only when one function is required as a tool to make other domains work. Such as the use of mathematics in the application of science and technology. Or the use of language in the study of history. Or the pairing of music and graphic arts.
Who is to say that one subject is most important, or that a certain academic discipline is more indicative of human intelligence than any other? In like fashion, who is to say that creative thinking and acting are sparked by curiosity only within a specific intellectual pursuit?
Academic or intellectual snobbishness distorts creative thinking. It confines the human brain within categories or regions that exclude various possibilities, especially those that benefit from multivariate perspectives.
Possibly the most egregious example of that way of thinking was Nineteenth Century medicine, a field powerfully dominated by science and statistical analysis. It retarded the quality of human life for decades. Data and conclusions drawn by those declared to be especially sophisticated and learned superseded the “what if” of intellectual meandering to the point of peril.
Many horrible diseases and epidemics were not overcome until some courageous practitioner risked his or her professional career to try something previously unheard of. Something the sophisticates believed to be voodoo science or religious hocus pocus.
Hypotheses are starting points for further research but were for years reduced to activities considered measurable in ways discernable only in concrete data. Which makes sense to those who believe in safeguards and the protection of professional credibility. And makes sense to me up to a point, the overdependence on statistical analysis.
Reasoned creativity is an important aspect of human life. The kind of creativity rooted in qualitative thinking and acting. The “what if” factor rooted in logic surrounded by mysteries as big and omnipresent as the universe in which earth is only a small and insignificant part.
Reasoned creativity is also relational. Our ideas and “what ifs” are never confined to one person’s brain or life experiences. Existence on this planet involves thousands of interdependent functions. Without them, the world would be devoid of anything more than rock.
My ideas are never born in one cell of my brain, or even thousands of cells. My ideas come from interactions with other human beings. A wide variety of experiences that become a conglomeration of viewpoints and perspectives.
Technical Creativity is Not Enough
In recent decades we have been asked to believe that creative thinking is most essential in the technical fields, through a plethora of amazing machines and other devices. Devices that entertain us, support the vehicles that move us from place to place, or make our homes safer and more convenient.
Our schools and universities are refashioning their academic programs to upgrade and expand majors in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM). No criticism there. Simply a commentary on what we value most in our society. Teachers and professors in the liberal and fine arts are either replaced or allowed to retire without filling the position with someone else.
Why do these trends matter? Because the language of creative thought is being constricted. Diminished to the point of excluding matters associated with ways of being and living. The kind of cognitive and emotional expansiveness influenced by great literature and spiritual influencers.
Pushed aside are Greek literature and philosophy, ancient poems like Beowulf, and other forms of literature from various cultures. All of them once an essential part of anyone’s education.
Language is now technically descriptive more than thought-provoking. Constructed in ways people who have nothing more than a fourth-grade education can understand it.
Much of today’s religious writing, with some remarkable exceptions, tends toward maxims based on right and wrong thinking and acting. Absolute and eternal-sounding directives. Technically reasonable in the sense of practical applications to everyday life.
Secular admonitions that correspond to absolutism overlap such theological approaches to learning. Allowing people to seek control of our lives. To use sound bites and words with alarming overtones to convince us their solutions to problems or controversial circumstances are immutable.
Jesus Christ: Creative Thinker and Advocate
Jesus, Son of God, and the heavenly representative of God’s will for us, came among us to explain that our existence is dependent on more than following patriarchal rules of behavior and worship.
Jesus was God’s service to humanity.
His message from his father and our God turned civilization upside down. Making an abstract condition called love more important than any other driving force in our lives.
While sounding innocuous to modern people, Jesus’ message from God our creator to the residents of Judea and their earthbound rulers was threatening. Even dangerous. Unconditional love as the basis for all relationships violated good political and military order. Tested belief systems of those who appointed themselves representatives of faith in the Almighty. It broke down established hierarchies by creating an aura of acceptance. A bitter pill for those with money, property, and power.
Not much has changed in today’s world. Rejecting that creative message Jesus brought from God continues to present an extremely detrimental impact on human life. For those of us who believe that unconditional love, as the root of Christian faith, must ourselves find creative ways to reinstate or reinvigorate Christ’s major principle. For ourselves. For each other.
Not through technical tinkering but through finding and using better ways to communicate with those we care for now. For those we want to care for in the larger scope of things. Through our actions and our words. Through enlarging the idea and practice of love, as Jesus taught us to do.
To define “church” as both a place to worship and a repository of meaningful exploration. As both a place to reinforce our faith and a source of ideas that stimulate people in our larger community toward a clearer understanding of how unconditional love makes a difference. In ourselves as human beings. In our institutions such as schools and businesses. In our neighborhoods, both proximate and beyond.
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