The Source and Seat of Creativity in Human Beings: A Position Paper

Sumit Ghosh
Department of Computer Science
The University of Texas, Tyler, Texas 75799,


All cultures and nations have long recognized
that creativity is the ultimate cause of the
quantum leaps in virtually every discipline of
knowledge and the quiet and invisible force
behind all progress of human civilization.
Leading thinkers across all disciplines have
advocated the importance of creativity and
consistently ranked it well beyond
intelligence. In the recent literature, creativity
has been clarified as a phenomenon that
categorically differs from intelligence in that
the ideas that result from it may not be
deduced by applying current reasoning
techniques on the state-of-the-art knowledge.
Thus, creativity transcends intelligence.
Throughout history, close examination
reveals that deep sadness and profound grief
have always been associated with every
creative activity and every individual engaged
in a creative invention or discovery. The lives
of sage Valmiki, Socrates, Plato,
Archimedes, Genghiz Khan, Leonardo Da
Vinci, Galileo, John Harrison, Alfred Nobel,
and Jagadish Bose, to name a few, offer
undeniable testimony. This paper pioneers
the analytical examination of a key question,
namely, is the apparent association between
creativity and sadness mere coincidence or
does there exist a scientific reasoning, arising
from a deep and fundamental connection
between the two concepts? The potential
benefits of this exercise, if successful, are
two-fold. First, it encapsulates a systematic
attempt to resolve a deep intellectual
curiosity that has intrigued society for
millennia. Second, as a practical benefit, a
careful understanding of the theory of the
underlying processes may help us analyze
how best to nurture the course of any given
creative activity and limit the grief or sadness
so it does not spin out of control and
consume the individual, denying civilization,
today and for the future, the enormous
benefits that may follow from the inventions
and discoveries. It is an undeniable fact that
sadness may affect every individual, at one
time or another and this paper does not focus
on assessing whether sadness is a prelude
to a creative invention or discovery. Instead,
its objective is to examine whether creativity,
by nature, triggers a counter-posing force
that leads to profound grief; or whether
creativity and sadness are so intimately
intertwined in their seat in human beings that
evoking creativity automatically triggers
intense grief.

1. Introduction

In a stark irony, history is littered with stories
of great inventions and discoveries that have
profoundly shaped civilizations while their
sources – the highly creative geniuses, have
been misunderstood and ignored at best and
persecuted and murdered at the worst.
Almost without exception, grief appears to
have followed every act of creativity. Sage
Valmiki, the founding poet of the present
creation, uttered the first rhyme in the form of
a curse directed at a hunter, driven by
profound grief upon witnessing the cruel
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hunter killing a pair of mating birds. Socrates,
the first to introduce the now well-known
Socratic style of learning in ancient Greece,
was sentenced to death by drinking hemlock
for instructing the younger generation to
question every assumption in society in a
logical manner. The famed inventor,
Archimedes, whose invention of a mile
marker cart or the odometer machine paved
the way for the Roman Empire to survive for
over a thousand years, was ironically killed
by a Roman soldier when he had ignored the
soldier’s orders while deeply engrossed over
a geometrical problem. For proposing the
sun-centric theory of the planetary system, in
direct opposition to the Christian Church's
belief, Copernicus was hanged to death.
Genghiz Khan, the most successful military
strategist in the last millennium, created a
professional army, where promotion was
based on merit, not nepotism, and conceived
a brilliant military maneuver, not fully
understood even to this day, only after
suffering repeated humiliating defeats at the
hands of the rival Tartars and enduring the
exceptionally cruel deaths of his loyal men at
the hands of his once closest friend turned

Leonardo Da Vinci's inventions were so
exceptionally creative that few, if any, of his
contemporaries fully understood them. He
was largely ignored, passed over for
commissions at times, and ridiculed for many
his ideas. The consequence was profound
loss of opportunities for civilization. When the
grief became unbearable, Leonardo folded
up all of his sketches, drawings, and writings
and hid them away. Upon discovery five
hundred years later, we lament and wonder
what incredible advances society would have
witnessed today had his designs of the
underwater breathing apparatus, tank, hang
gliders, helicopters, and many others been
pursued during his lifetime. For his support of
Copernicus’ theory, Galileo was declared a
threat to society at age 70 and imprisoned at
home. It is ironic that without Galileo’s
founding work on mechanics and motion,
there would be no physics today, no
automobiles, electricity, nor space program,
and none of the modern scientific advances.
John Harrison believed that time is the key to
computing longitude and enabling navigation
in high seas and set out to build a precision
marine chronometer. The contemporary
belief among astronomers and
mathematicians including Isaac Newton was
that the astronomical bodies including the
moon, sun, and stars held the key to
navigation. They were so self-righteous,
arrogant, closed-minded, and contemptuous
of a humble, uneducated village clock maker
that they publicly ridiculed Harrison’s thinking
and harassed him well into his 70s. Harrison
had rightly set us along the path to inertial
navigation which, ironically, the astronomers'
and mathematicians’ intellect failed to grasp.
In his quest for a safe and practically usable
explosive, Alfred Nobel spent his entire life
pursuing the invention of dynamite, beginning
with the raw ingredient, TNT. Misunderstood
and ridiculed, the newspapers printed his
obituary when his brother died from an
accidental explosion. Jagadish Bose, the
discoverer of wireless radio, was harassed
and prevented from filing a patent by the
ruling British bigots, leading Marconi to
plagiarize and falsely claim wireless radio as
his own invention.

The impact of intense grief on creative
geniuses is that, despite unusual resilience
stemming from their strong belief in
themselves, they eventually grow tired and
disheartened and abandon their quest for
innovative ideas. It is often said that geniuses
get their ideas in a flash, but it takes a
lifetime to convince others. The result is
incalculable loss for civilization. Sadly, we will
never know what profound discoveries would
have followed from Archimedes, Leonardo,
Galileo, and Bose. Perhaps, there have been
many more Da Vincis in history whose
notebooks and sketches are yet waiting to be

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2. Are Creativity and Sadness Connected?

To resolve the question in an analytic
manner, this paper proposes two theories,
each from a unique perspective. The first
theory, termed CRIL, builds on known
scientific facts about the organization of the
human brain, namely, the two lobes and the
corpus collosum that interconnects them. The
second theory, labeled MHAUC, is
metaphysical and focuses on the nature of
the material plane of human existence and
the evolutionary path of individual beings
toward the universal consciousness.

As per the physiological and medical
literature, it is the tentative findings of
scientists that the human brain is organized
into left and right cerebral hemispheres,
which functionally oppose one another. The
left brain has been described as logical,
scientific, methodical, and clearly grounded in
the physical reality and societal norms and
standards. In contrast, the right brain is
viewed as the source of arts, intuition, holistic
thinking, imagination, creativity, and
inspiration, uninhibited by societal norms and
reality. The two hemispheres are connected
by a corpus colossum that provides a
communication link to balance out the
activities of the two brain hemispheres. In the
majority of the population, the left brain
exercises significantly greater control and
severely tempers the right brain’s output
before generating the whole individual’s final
decision. As a result, majority activities
conform to reality and societal norms.
However, in a small percentage of
individuals, labeled asocial, eccentric, and
autistic over the millennia, the right brain is
uncontrollably dominant and a few of these
individuals had exhibited behaviors of
unprecedented artistic creativity such as
being able to visualize music, literature,
mathematical equations, etc. In the particular
case of Kim Peek [14], a savant and the
inspiration behind the movie, “Rainman,”
neuro-radiologists have discovered agenesis
of the corpus collosum, i.e. a total absence of
the corpus collosum.

The first theory, CRIL, proposed in this
paper, submits that the right brain alone
constitutes the storehouse of all knowledge,
yet unknown. Furthermore, all known
knowledge and reasoning processes can be
traced to the right brain as the ultimate origin.
Evidence abounds in plenty in Nature. As an
example, consider the fact that dolphins are
able to undulate their skin to cancel out the
eddies that arise while they are swimming,
thereby achieving speeds in excess of 30
MPH that they can maintain continuously for
hours. Even to this day, we are unable to
solve the corresponding boundary layer
equation, implying that while the dolphin’s
right brain has successfully invented the
algorithm and implemented it in the real
world, it continues to elude the human left
brain. As a second example, biologists have
reported that a specific fish in the Amazon
rain forest has mastered the art of spitting a
fine jet of water toward a tree hanging over
the lake, to knock off a beetle-prey walking
on a branch or leaf and cause it to drop onto
the lake. The trajectory of the water jet, often
6-15 feet long, must precisely take into
account the curvature of the stream due to
gravity as well as the bending distortion in the
fishes’ vision stemming from differential
refractive indices of light in air and water. The
underlying calculation would involve solving a
complex differential equation subject to
boundary conditions, which would be
challenging even to an accomplished
mathematician. When a creative genius
brings forth a piece of new knowledge from
the right brain and successfully explains it in
the light of the society’s current intelligence,
i.e., all contemporary knowledge and
reasoning, the new knowledge is slowly
accepted and embraced by the intelligence in
society and it finds a home in the left brain.
Eventually, it is integrated into the social
fabric and becomes a part of the intelligence.
However, at the very moment of birth of the
new idea, the intelligence resident in the left
brain is driven by its own nature to violently
oppose the new thought. As a logical
extension, society, representing a
personification of the left brain, is driven by
its very nature to oppose and reject the
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creative individual, thereby causing grief. The
sadness takes on a profound nature when
the creative genius, driven by an internal
desire to expand the reaches of knowledge
for societal benefit and having already
expended a great amount of energy to
overcome the inherent resistance of his or
her own left brain, utterly fails to comprehend
the reason for the opposition.

The second theory, MHAUC, builds on the
metaphysical notions of individual and
universal consciousness and the journey of
the individual consciousness, located within
the corresponding human being, toward the
universal consciousness. Our plane of
existence being physical or material, human
beings are subject to two fundamental
limitations. First, the transport of any
information or control signal is subject to
latency, and the consequent delay may
cause the underlying knowledge to be viewed
as imprecise and out-of-date. Second, our
gross material nature prevents us from
acquiring perfect knowledge of the principle
of causality, including causes, effects, and
their relationships, many of which may be too
subtle to be comprehended by gross matter.
In essence, the material plane is confounded
with ignorance and uncertainties. In contrast,
the universal consciousness lies in an
abstract dimension and is located well
beyond the material world, in which time
does not exist. Thus, this dimension of
existence facilitates precise and total
knowledge of every cause and its effect(s) at
all times. There is no latency, therefore, all
knowledge is available instantaneously,
literally. Consequently, there is neither any
imprecision about knowledge of events and
consequences nor ignorance. MHAUC,
introduced in this paper, submits that the
process of an individual consciousness
struggling on its path toward the universal
consciousness involves conceiving thoughts
and intentions and realizing them through
effort, driven by the desire to pursue pure
altruism, self-sacrifice, and service to others,
despite the lack of exact knowledge of the
causes and their effects and the uncertainty
over whether the desired outcomes will come
to fruition. The emanation of noble thoughts
has been referred to as greatness in the
literature. Often, efforts fail and this naturally
leads to sadness. Of much more importance
is the following. MHAUC submits that the
locations of greatness and sadness are one
and the same and that the co-placement is
deliberate. The reason is that sadness serves
to enhance the severity of the test of the
individual consciousness, namely, whether
the intent to self-sacrifice is sincere and the
commitment to serve genuine. Thus, when
an act of greatness is triggered, sadness is
evoked and it follows closely.

It is the author's sincere belief that
awareness of the cause of sadness will
impart to the creative geniuses a profound
understanding of its underlying purpose.
This, in turn, will help them remain focused
on extracting unprecedented ideas from the
right brain and avoid being overwhelmed and
consumed by grief.

3. Acknowledgments

This paper is humbly dedicated to Prof.
Ramamoorthy, a great teacher, on the year
of his eightieth birthday.

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