If Ideas Had Shapes

A quoteblog ranging from philosophers in bathrobes to galaxy-rises

Tag: creativity

Mary Shelley – Frankenstein (1818)

Everything must have a beginning, to speak in Sanchean phrase; and that beginning must be linked to something that went before. The Hindus gave the world an elephant to support it, but they make the elephant stand upon a tortoise. Invention, it must be humbly admitted, does not consist in creating out of void, but out of chaos; the materials must, in the first place, be afforded: it can give form to dark, shapeless substances but cannot bring into being the substance itself.

(author’s introduction)


Douglas Hofstadter – The Mind’s I (1981)

This dichotomy of the creative self into a conscious part and an unconscious part is one of the most disturbing aspects of trying to understand the mind. If–as was just asserted–our best ideas come burbling up as if from mysterious underground springs, then who really are we? Where does the creative spirit really reside? Is it by an act of will that we create, or are we just automata made out of biological hardware, from birth until death fooling ourselves through idle chatter into thinking that we have “free will”? If we are fooling ourselves about all these matters, then whom–or what–are we fooling?

from the reflections on C. Cherniak’s “The Riddle of the Universe and Its Solution” (1978)

Douglas Adams – The Salmon of Doubt (2002)

I get very worried about this idea of art. Having been an English literary graduate, I’ve been trying to avoid the idea of doing art ever since. I think the idea of art kills creativity.

…if somebody wants to come along and say, “Oh, it’s art,” that’s as it may be. I don’t really mind that much. But I think that’s for other people to decide after the fact. It isn’t what you should be aiming to do.

Douglas Adams – The Salmon of Doubt (2002)

But nowadays everybody’s a comedian, even the weather girls and continuity announcers. We laugh at everything. Not intelligently anymore, not with sudden shock, astonishment, or revelation, just relentlessly and meaninglessly. No more rain showers in the desert, just mud and drizzle everywhere, occasionally illuminated by the flash of paparazzi.

Creative excitement has gone elsewhere—to science and technology: new ways of seeing things, new understandings of the universe, continual new revelations about how life works, how we think, how we perceive, how we communicate.

Douglas Adams – The Salmon of Doubt (2002)

He doesn’t need to be serious. He’s better than that. He’s up in the stratosphere of what the human mind can do, above tragedy and strenuous thought, where you will find Bach, Mozart, Einstein, Feynman, and Louis Armstrong, in the realms of pure, creative playfulness.

Douglas Adams – The Salmon of Doubt (2002)

People often ask me where I get my ideas from, sometimes as often as eighty-seven times a day. This is a well-known hazard for writers, and the correct response is first to breathe deeply, steady your heartbeat, fill your mind with peaceful, calming images of birdsong and buttercups in spring meadows, and then try to say, “Well, it’s very interesting you ask that…” before breaking down and starting to whimper uncontrollably.

Ansel Adams – The Camera (1980)

In general, I do not find the normal lens especially desirable, functionally or aesthetically. … I frequently find that the “normal” concepts and performances are not as exciting as those that make an acceptable departure from the expected reality.

Ansel Adams – The Camera (1980)

An electronic and optical miracle creates nothing on its own! Whatever beauty and excitement [the camera] can represent exist in your mind and spirit to begin with.

Ansel Adams – The Camera (1980)

Too many people merely do what they are told to do. The greatest satisfaction derives from the realization of your individual potential, perceiving something in your own way and expressing it through adequate understanding of your tools. Take advantage of everything; be dominated by nothing except your convictions. Do not lose sight of the essential importance of craft; every worthwhile human endeavor depends on the highest levels of concentration and mastery of basic tools.

Ansel Adams – The Camera (1980)

I attempt in these books to suggest the importance of craft and its relation to creativity in photography. As for the creativity itself, I can only assert that it exists; that there is a magical potential that can be demonstrated only by reference to those works that possess it, through all ages, in all media.

If everyone possesses some measure of this intangible quality called creativity, photography is unprecedented as an outlet for its expression. Yet at times it seems that the very freedom and accessibility of photography are self-defeating. Thoughtful application is often submerged by avaricious automation of equipment and procedure. … The impression prevails that the acquisition of equipment and the following of “rules” assure achievement.