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Curiosity, Memory and Creativity.
For years humanity has been trying to define intelligence. Perhaps that is a mark of intelligence….trying to define intelligence?
We have epistemology which is a branch of philosophy concerning the theory of knowledge. We have IQ tests and EQ tests (Emotional Intelligence). We have the theory of multiple intelligences which is very close to giving a better picture of what intelligence is where it splits intelligence into the following categories:
- Musical and Rhythmic
- Visual and spatial
- Verbal and Linguistic
- Logical and Mathematical
- Bodily and Kinesthetic
While categorizing different forms of intelligence is wise to accommodate the diversity of human experience, it still doesn’t address the core elemental building blocks of intelligence.
In my experience with a variety of intelligent animals such as squirrels, crows and border collies, as well as with young children, I have found that the number one determiner of intelligence is the level of curiosity. Curiosity is usually manifested in playfulness. Or sometimes….how much trouble one gets into! How much do you engage with your environment? Do you listen for the faintest sounds? How about looking at things and really observing the details? Do you smell things? Do you touch things? When was the last time you tasted something that wasn’t food?
Who does these things every second of their wakeful consciousness? Babies and toddlers. It is also at this time that we grow the most in intelligence. We are most genius when we are young children.
But in thinking of all the manifestations of curiosity, it alone means nothing without memory. Indeed when we discover something about our world or ourselves through play and then forget what we learned, it doesn’t help our useful intelligence. The intelligence of border collies is obvious when they remember complex verbal commands. The intelligence of crows and ravens is evident when they remember to use tools. Having a powerful memory is an important tool for the next element of creativity. Of course remembering language and how to use tools doesn’t happen without first a curiosity to observe of experience it.
The last leg of our stable three sided pyramid of intelligence is creativity. When seen in conjunction with curiosity and memory, creativity is expressed by relating divergent subjects in the mind. By creating theories and inferences. When reading someone’s body language (a Bodily and Kinesthetic category of intelligence) we can make a connection that when people cross their arms and have wandering eyes they are likely disinterested in what your talking about because of distraction, disagreeance, or disrespect. We make this connection by joining the visual cue with past experience. When learning about the physical structure of mushrooms and the symbiotic relationship between mycelium and roots through the subject of botany we can also creatively ponder the potential parallels with what we know about our own brain through the subject of psychology. From there we might infer the mycelium web in the soil, which looks strikingly like the neuronal connections in our brain, acts as a brain for the botanical world. Through further research (as outlined in the book “The Hidden Life of Trees”) science has discovered this to be true; trees warn other trees to build their defenses for threats such as pests and disease. Whereas our electrical impulses travel many inches per millisecond, the electrical impulses between trees via the mycelium web travels around a third of an inch per second.
Creativity cannot happen without memory and curiousity.
These three critical elements of intelligence can be seen in their relationship to the three parts of time: past, present and future.
Curiosity is only experienced through presence and now. We cannot play or gather new information in any other part of time except the infinitely small point called now.
Memory is obviously a mental construct of the past which does not actually exist in reality except for what we recall in our mind (and unconscious collective library [reference Carl Jung]). It is nonetheless an important element to use what we have experienced in previous present states to evolve.
Creativity is analogous to the future. It it is a powerful tool to transform multiple memories of what we have experienced into novel methods/ideas/actions.
The past is about what happened, the present is what exists in experience, and the future is infinite potential. Creativity lies in the realm of infinite potential.
Through the act of creativity we are existing in a state of presence and indeed being playfully curious and thereby creating new memories of which will spawn new creativity with till be experienced through presence which will create new memories and so on and so forth is the cycle of intelligence.
The next question is why does our intelligence, as defined by my three foundational elements, seem to fade as we transition out of young childhood? Many people would say it is because our brain becomes less plastic. But I contend that it is our societal paradigms that shut down curiosity…the first step of intelligence. Sometimes when children ask questions their questions are not honored and as this happens they begin to ask less questions. Children who explore are told that it is too dangerous to venture that far. Climb a tree then be told to get down. Draw on the wall then be told to stop that. Dig a hole in the yard then it’s filled in. Acting weird then told to be normal. Singing and told they can’t sing. Playing piano and told to play it quieter. Dancing and told they look foolish. The antidote to the erosion of curiosity is the encouragement of playfulness and exploration. To give them a non-judgemental sounding board to tell their story and cement in their memory the powerful experiences of curiosity into memory to serve as the stemcells of creativity.
The Unification Of The Three Elements of Intelligence
Meditation serves as a reset to our intellectual system. What often happen is we get bogged down with cyclic unnecessary thought patterns and paradigms. It is thought patterns and paradigms which cripple curiosity since you have no time for such things as you are in your mind or doing some task. It cripples creativity because we tell ourselves that we are not creative or good enough. And it doesn’t make room for new memoies. Through meditation we can observe and deal with these harmful thoughts and paradigms by focusing on being the observer and consciously shedding light on the parts of our mind which are normally obscured.
An exercise to get in touch with your inner genius is to envision yourself as a child, perhaps expressing what some call their inner child. What do you as a child do? Look up and look down. Look near and look far. Observe the functions of your body starting with your breath and heart rhythms. Touch … everything. Listen as if a dog waiting for it’s beloved human to come back home. Taste the leaves on trees, the grass, your hair, the air. Smell the scents and aromas seeing if you can directionally locate the source. Approach life with full sensuality as if reality itself is your lover.
Then tell your story to a compassionate loved one like a good friend or mate. If you don’t have someone you trust enough to expound on your sensualization of life then write it down at length describing all the details leaving no stone unturned. Telling your story helps commit experience to memory.
Then enter a state of no-mind. Go for a walk, sit in silence, pick up a musical instrument, hold a pen on paper, dip a brush in paint … without expectation observantly exist. Creative insight will organically spring forth as does the emergence of migratory birds acting as one or as ripples on the beach. The key to creative success is to not force, doubt, or expect anything. Intention is good though. Intention to prioritize time for creativity. Intention to solve a problem. Intention to make music. But no expectation.
What Is Wisdom?
Wisdom comes from intuition. It comes from a deeper part of consciousness. Something so deep that is drops out of the bottom of our consciousness and joins all other consciousnesses. It is what Carl Jung refers to as the collective unconscious, what I call the collective library of experience, and what some people call the Akaishic record or some other variant of the term. Wisdom is instinct. It is not learned but rather accessed. The level of access is dependent on how clear the channel or connection is. When we get out of our mind and understand that our essence of existence is as the observer (something that exists even without thought or action), then we can more easily access wisdom.
Creativity is a beautiful third element or equinox between intelligence and wisdom. Creativity pulls from both our personal intelligence (curiosity, memory, creativity) and as well as the deep wisdom that transcends our separateness. When doing improvisational music, it is true that I am using a certain amount of memory and curiosity, but I feel there is also an element of pulling from something that is beyond me.
If intelligence is a pyramid, wisdom is the space around the pyramid. Or perhaps the triangular base of of the three sided pyramid.
Wisdom transcends all elements of intelligence. For example, divining with a dousing rod for water in the ground is something does not entail memory, creativity or curiosity. Having a gut feeling about someone transcends intelligence. The way animals intuitively know what plants heal is wisdom. Having a synchronistic feeling or thought as a distant friend across the world transcends intelligence.
What do we do with this understanding of intelligence and wisdom?
Once we begin observing and understanding these things we can grow our intelligence and expand our channel to wisdom leading to a more effective and harmonious life. We can remove the blocks to curiosity, utilize tools to increase memory, and allow ourselves to be creative. We can learn to identify the states the are more conducive to wisdom flow and prioritize those states more often.