Wednesday, May 25, 2011

A logical mind cannot be creative!

Around 2 years back, I was chatting with Venkat Konda, who is like a brother to the great lyricist Sirivennela Seeta Rama Sastry. He was remarking that "Sirivennela is first a scientist, then a poet and that his songs have a logical flow". This made me thinking. My understanding is that a logical mind can never be creative.  I scribbled quick notes at that time to support my case. Now when I look at these notes, I felt it is worth blogging. So here we go!

The thinker defined

First some definitions to understand my theory -
a.        Mind (manas) - The thinker, the commentator
b.       Non-mind - that which is not mind.  This is not same as heart or whatever. This is simply non-mind.

Actually people made many finer distinctions of the above. For example Indian philosophers had around 5 distinctions. But to keep it simple, we will stick to only these two.  Just to put this abstract distinction somewhat concrete, let us take an example.

I am seeing a cricket match. Tendulkar plays a shot. I think it's wonderful. It is classic Tendulkar, I say. Then he gets out. I get disappointed. How many times he gets out playing the same wrong shot? He should have played it differently …

All this "commentary" is mind. Mind analyzes, reasons & makes conclusions. But we know that cricket commentary is not the cricket match. It is an "interpretation" of the match. That interpreter is the "thinker". What happens if there is no "interpreter"? Can we see a cricket match without any commentary whatsoever? Try it and you will see it is very very difficult. "The thinker" always interferes. He offers unwarranted help.

The thinker acts as the screen between You &  the cricket match. What happens if this screen melts? Then the distinction between You & cricket match ceases! Then as long as you are watching the match, you are the cricket match!! You see a beautiful sun-rise. If you can eliminate "the thinker", you will appreciate a very different sun-rise, something very new and fresh. It is something inexplicable because all explanations are part of the thinker and here we are speaking of something in which thinker doesn't exist.

Can the thinker be creative?

We can argue that all creativity is outside the thinker i.e the thinker can never be creative. A simplified argument is given below -

o    First, let us recognize that when we say something is "new & creative", it is the thinker which says so. The thinker analyzes/realizes that something unseen or unheard is before him. Hence it is "new" for him.

First time readers of Telugu literature will find the usage of "ఘాటు ప్రేమ" (pungent love) innovative. But when they hear  it a second time, it is no longer creative, coz it is now in "memory".  And it is a common experience that we often forget what we read and then again some usages like "ఘాటు ప్రేమ" may look "innovative".  Thus we can see "memory" & "thinker" have a connection.

o    This something "new" can not be part of the thinker because then thinker knows it exists and hence it is no longer new !!

So creativity is like a miracle. Suddenly something appears in a flash and at that moment thinker is absent. Then in a flash of second later the thinker awakens and he sees this thing which is very new & creative. In summary, creativity is outside the "thinker". It happens in that "Eureka moment" when the thinker is absent. "Mind dump" & other techniques used in creative writing use the same principle to keep thinker momentarily away to get that creative juice flowing. It follows that all artists - including poets and musicians - who are creative must be utilizing their "non-thinker" mode to give shape to their ideas.

The necessity of thinker

The above description doesn't mean that thinker is unnecessary. In fact thinker is vital to our day to day life. Without him, you don't remember the route to your work. You can't distinguish what is good and what is bad for you. You can't enjoy solving the Soduku puzzle.

In the literature you often find the thinker being referred to as "ego". It is because of thinker a "sense of self" exists.  As one Swamiji put it - on a blackboard if you draw a tick mark with a white chalk, that mark appears  as separate from the blackboard, but when you erase it, the distinction ceases. Thus the thinker creates our sense of existence. We can use this to our benefit or become selfish and evil to our own peril. This is the reason that sometimes "thinker" is referred to as dangerous. But he is a great tool and like all tools,  we should know how & when to use it.

It will be fitting to conclude this article by  quoting from a song written by Sirivennela himself -

తర్కించే తెలివికి తెలియదుగా తానే తన శత్రువని
(The thinking intelligence does not know it is its own enemy)


The chic who digs bikes and babies said...

Hmm.. got to read your latest post...the whole post is from a point of view of a person like you, me or anybody stuck in a day-to-day frame of thought, rather absolute I'd say. Hence it is a probability that we cannot recognize the logic or identify the pattern behind creativity. If you break Ilayaraja's any tune into differential equations(my take, you may use other mathematical/scientific means) you see a beautiful logical structure evolve. We only fail to notice this because our sense of logic remains 1+1. Hell, even Dhir who is famously illogical and dillogical :P, if you dig into his beautiful recipes, logic is clear. But if you ask me can a automated machine churn out such tunes or recipes or even overcome enemy attack in combat as well as humans, then the answer would be: Good, but not enough. And only because human dimensions of logic are not finite.

Phanindra said...


Thanks for the detailed comments. You made some very valid and intelligent points. Appreciate them. This topic is actually somewhat vast and my article is rather incomplete.

When I attended the audio release function of Telugu movie "Mallepuvvu", Ilayaraja, who was the MD of the movie, made a speech. He said these words - " You can photograph or video shoot a bird flying and analyze how it flaps it wings, how it takes off etc. But that video is never the same as the actual bird flying. You cannot analyze and make music. It happens."

Anonymous said...

please do not limit the creative people within this boundaries of logical/non Logical, Religious/ Non Religious and etc...

a creative is a creative
whatever he is a logical person or not :)

Phanindra KSM said...

@Anonymous: Sure, point taken!