Posted On 09 Apr 2010
Many people place too high a value on creativity.
There’s no doubt that it’s good to be original (inventive) in many domains. The qualification ‘in many domains’ is necessary, because it is not good at all in some domains, for example, in inventing new ways to kill people.
However, when we think about being original, we often seem to ignore two considerations. The first is ordinary; the second is extraordinary.
The ordinary consideration is, when we are thinking of contributions, it’s as important (i) to destroy what is bad and (ii) to preserve what is valuable as it is (iii) to invent what is original.
For example, (i) we have inherited from our predecessors some terrible tendencies such as the habits of being genocidal killers and thoughtless polluters. Are you able to think of any example of inventing something wholly original that would be as valuable a contribution to humankind and the state of other sentient beings and the earth itself as reducing or eliminating those two tendencies?
(ii) If you value the profession of teaching, then you value the preservation of that which is valuable. Teachers don’t have to be original to make monumental contributions.
The extraordinary consideration is that there’s nothing to gain in order to live well. Wisdom does not require doing anything creative or original.
In my view, and in the view of the followers of Master Gotama (The Buddha), what is critical is “realizing” one’s true nature. Neither that nature nor realizing it involves doing anything original; instead, it’s a matter of uncovering what is already there.
What’s more important than living well? What would be better to be than to be wise?
The proper work of a lifetime is achieving wisdom.
Since creativity is not required for wisdom, pursuing it can be a distraction. Since it’s unnecessary for living well, it’s foolish to put too high a value on it.