Cultivating Ideas

How to ensure we continue on the path of originality and remain receptive to everything life presents to us.

For centuries, poetry has been used as a vehicle for prophecy and revelation, in which powerful insights have found their way into the pages of some of the most inspiring and compelling works. Many notable scientists and inventors were also poets, who prized the art of encapsulating their ideas into poetic form as an alternative to their usual disciplines. Similarly, many poets professed to an obsession with nature and exploring the limits of the outside world. Simply put, poetry and science both share at their heart the ability to see beyond what is initially apparent and draw parallels to help define a world yet to become.

How do we ensure that these insights occur in the first place? From an artistic standpoint, constantly feeding our mind and spirit through exploring new subjects and disciplines can be demanding, and it can sometimes be hard to understand exactly what it is that we are searching for. But in actuality, what this continuous process of discovery entails is a ‘priming of the mind’, preparing for that flash of inspiration that could potentially lead to the breakthrough we were seeking. When that moment comes, what occurs next can be described as a multiplyer-effect, whereby the impact of one fresh realisation releases a flow of similar, inter-related ones. This leads to a family of ideas that all at their heart share the same origin; your imagination has been awakened and a new range of possibilities revealed.

One such explanation for this process can be attributed to a phenomenon known as a ‘Mind-Pop’, where your brain unconsciously attempts to draw unrelated connections out of what it has just experienced. In summary, every new piece of information your brain absorbs changes the way in which it interacts with new information in the future, which in turn changes the way new information is processed, etc. This hall-of-mirrors like metaphor loosely explains how we come to encounter our own flashes of genius and how their random reflections can potentially become the seeds of an original idea. In theory, the more concepts which are activated in your mind at once, the more unusual your ideas can potentially become.

In a different light, Ken Robertson, in his now famous RSA talk on ‘Changing Education Paradigms’, explores the differing benefits between aesthetic and anaesthetic experiences. By enriching your life with new encounters, whether that be through the arts, education or culture, you will ultimately produce a truly unique ‘life picture’, not one that is generated by force, habit and obligation, but one propelled by fun, curiosity and innovation. Canadian journalist and author Malcolm Gladwell is a great example of somebody who is actively putting this into effect, drawing connections between invariably different worlds and disciplines. It is not so much whether these connections are robust enough to hold true, but that they transcend existing conventions, encouraging a sense of being open to less obvious possibilities. Savouring the wonder of even the most mundane and everyday objects can lead to your brain forming valuable and original relationships, potentially stimulating that vital flash of inspiration in the future.

All of this being said, to have hit upon something truly innovative, what matters is the nature of action that comes next. As the world becomes increasingly complex through the abundance of new information and data, the need to respond creatively and draw links between differing realms of thought is becoming ever more necessary and crucial. Rather than hoarding information for its own sake, the attitude to want to create something of true lasting value will help lead humanity towards a more inspiring and enlightened future. Much of the Western educational system was built upon the importance of remembering often fragmented facts and figures, but new educational methods like the ones being experimented with in Finland are a great example of challenging these norms and instead approaching things from a fresh, progressive angle.

While the popular saying goes, ‘creating something out of nothing’, perhaps in reality what is really being alluded to is the ability to create ‘something out of something’. Having the ability to draw upon existing ideas and re-imagine them into something original, ultimately comes down to responding creatively to the broad fabric of phenomena we see before us. Just as a film-maker maintains a split-focus between the inner-vision of their imagination and the spontaneous ‘outer-vision’ of the action around them, we too can remain stimulated to our surroundings by building a unique living picture of our everyday experiences. Feeding our minds, while simultaneously drawing connections in unusual and obscure ways, is a sure-fire method to guarantee that ideas continue to blossom and unexplored terrain forever be explored.

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Ed Hunte

Poet and Columnist at Global Poetry. United Kingdom

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