I was introduced to the TED conference by Seth Godin. If you haven’t ever seen TED talks on TED.com, you should. They are 18 minutes long and are only connected by the theme of TED “ideas worth spreading”.
I watched the TED talk by Elizabeth Gilbert (author of Eat, Pray, Love) about creativity and the “genius” last night. Her theory is that we should look back to ancient Greeks and Romans to reshape our idea of creative genius (they believed that a “genius” or a “daemon” came to visit a creative person and served as the true source of their creativity). While it was intellectually interesting to me and I can see the benefits of separating from the creativity to those she described as creative folks wracked with fear that they would never create anything of value or that their best work was behind them, something was missing to me.
Next I watched Jill Bolte Taylor’s talk from 2008. She is a brain scientist who had the amazing experience of being able to study her own brain while she had a stroke in her left hemisphere. Her epiphanies resonated to my core. How the right side of the brain is all about universal connection, the idea that we are all made up of universal energy and there is no separation between me and you, while the left side is all about the individual and what is going on within the boundaries of our unique bodies and selves. The right speaks through feeling and emotion, the left through language. During the stroke, her left hemisphere was completely shut down, thus quieting the brain chatter and allowing the visceral experience of the right side to take over entirely. Dr. Bolte Taylor spoke of it as “finding Nirvana.”
THIS is what was missing from Elizabeth Gilbert’s talk. These two theories need to be combined. On the one hand, Ms. Gilbert is right, it is not “I” who creates the transcendental work, because “I” is controlled by the left side of our brain. It is the divine connection, the god-force that creates. However, what Ms. Gilbert missed and Dr. Bolte Taylor hit square on the head, is that divine connection is within us, too. It is not up to some capricious sprite to come and “show up for work” as Ms. Gilbert terms it. It is up to us to quiet the brain chatter of our left hemisphere and allow the divine connection to be complete, without resistance. It is our job to allow divine inspiration to flow and I don’t think we need to have a stroke to do that. We have all found our own paths: meditation, prayer, listening to music, etc. We just need to make the conscious connection between allowing the right side of our brain to dominate and our ability to create. The power to connect to the “genius” is entirely in our hands. That is an idea worth spreading.