perspective by Paul Henrickson, Ph.D.

tm. © 2007

Many years ago, when the study of creativity in human behavior was relatively new and broad distinctions were made between that mental activity and what we had, for so long, accepted as evidences of intelligence there had been some tone of deference detectable in the literature which sounded much like those interested in creativity were apologetic for the secondary, or lower, position held by it in relation to “intelligence”. Actually, that viewpoint still prevails. It was not until recently had I a clearer understanding of the finding that intelligence scores beyond 120 were not helpful in contributing to one’s scores on creativity assessments. Because questions concerning the relationship between what we think of as “intelligence” on the one hand and “creativeness” on the other have been resurrected again images from the past which, at the time, had perplexed me, have also returned. I will relate some here. As a graduate student at the Boston branch of the University of Massachusetts I attended a class visit to what was called a mental institution and while the instructor manifested her talents as a tourist guide I had become fascinated by the image of a young black boy at a large loom weaving some fabric. Normally I would have been interested in the fabric but in this instance it was the machine-like regularity of the boy’s movements and his undeviating attention to his occupation, which attracted my attention. Also, I had noticed, that this young man was also unusually attractive with fine, and symmetrical facial features that, in other circumstances might have indicated not only intelligence but also a level of social sensibility. Of course, I realize that such generalizations may not hold up in any controlled investigation, but what I am offering at this time are my observations. One of those observations was that the attention this young fellow was paying was not to the product he was producing, but to his motor activity and even that he had so regularized, made so perfect in its motions, that

no great amount of attention was required from his conscious mind. It were as though he had achieved a level of comfortable psychic isolation from his environment and required no, nor would he tolerate any, interruption of that status quo. A few years later while teaching at a small college in North Dakota another remarkable person attracted my attention in the form of a young, somewhat rigidly expectant, highly selfdisciplined young man in his early twenties whose most evident characteristic was a control over what he would, or would not, allow as influences into his system. Since in most instances it is my approach, as a teacher, to try to break down preconceptions of this sort merely in order to encourage a later gestalt closure at a more comprehensive level of integration he and I were, sometimes, at loggerheads. It is not my custom to persist where the resistance is so definitive so I backed off. Some 45 years later that same person, I believe, held a teaching position at that same institution and was the only one, of hundreds, to request additional information about my researches into creative thinking and behavior. What this, as well as many other situations, seems to suggest is that some chose as their life-time occupation an occupation that reflects their deepest psychic attempts to resolve the problems which beset their destined evolution. As Christ advised the physicians: “heal thyself!” At the deepest level of psychic awareness lies the knowledge of what is needed by the individual to achieve the balance he seeks or the goals he wishes to achieve. Sometimes that balance is sought in the teaching profession, some times in psychological pursuits and sometimes in what most identify as creative activity such as music and the graphic arts or in theatre where either . or both the subject matter becomes a symbolic tool of explanation much, as in language, a metaphor or the dominating tool of execution such as counting seemed to have served for the symphonic composer Anton Bruchner. Between 1964-68 when I was at the University of Guam which, as many may know, is a racially mixed community dominated economically by the presence of several United States military basis. It was from there, in fact, that many of the offenses against Vietnam were launched, although when I was there I knew very, very little about them. Most of my students were either Chamoran, that is Guamanian or Micronesian and a few were either military personnel or their wives.

It was one of my military personnel students who had captured my attention through his unexpectedly novel approach to seeking my assistance. I imagine that in the normal psychoanalytical procedure he might have been diagnosed as approaching the psychotic. I found myself rejecting that terminology and the rigid definitiveness it implied and allowed myself to become an audience to his pain. My conclusion then, and as it still is, was that John’s pain had to do with the conflict, set in motion within him by the conflicting ideals imposed upon him by the military as they increasingly challenged those he felt were more intrinsic to his particular nativity. The battle that I saw going on in him was a battle between the ideal of the society of which he was a part and that which he had wanted to allow to emerge from within… his life as a process of self-discovery was under threat of being snuffed out as a result of his quasi belief in the authority of some other external being, force, or power over which he felt he lacked the personal power to over throw. All I was able to do was to listen and to absorb as much as my being allowed of his anguish. There were distinct limits to that involvement as there are only so many hours in the day and I had commitments to my other responsibilities which were already much more than any of my colleagues’. I feel some guilt in having failed him and his wife who came on a few occasions to my apartment at 2 or 3 or 4 am to rattle my metal louvers to gain my attention and to seek my active participation. The point that I should like to arrive at, at this time, is that unless the personal developmental needs of the individual are being met and responded to at some effective level the development of the individual in the way the individual feels the development should proceed is in jeopardy. Some twenty years later in Pojoaque, New Mexico I met a fellow in the local liquor store who asked me if I would drive him home to San Ildefonso Pueblo. I was, at first, apprehensive for it was apparent that he had a head start on the day’s journey into an alternative and more acceptable reality. But I drove him home and was movingly rewarded for my effort. He explained to me that his having been drafted into the service had been a severe conflict of ideals for him as he was now asked to kill someone, some several some ones, whom he did

not know, who were far away on the other side of many rows of mountains and big waters into a land that, for him, was foreign because he could not see it from where he normally lived. He had, like Habakuk, been plucked from where he preferred to be to do service in a place he had not known existed where he had been ordered to perform acts of violence condemned by the society he had known as a child. More recently a fifty-three year-old entitled German Baron had intruded himself into my professional life and assumed the responsibility for its augmented recognition. This man of highly regularized conceptual vision into which the world should fit its irregularities and a child-like delight in inconsequential self absorption is, it appears to me, appealing for the identification of the right road to self-realization by posing as the guide to someone else’s future which, of course, he seems to see more clearly than does the subject of that future himself. The Baron has a strong sense of nobless oblige where, very much aware of how a “house should be run” stepped into my chaotic environment for the very first time and announced that I needed a valet, a gentleman’s gentleman, a housekeeper and cook. He also announced that he intended to become those extensions in my life and began fulfilling them just as he had outlined. I know, of course, that I could have stopped this at the very beginning but chose not to do so in favor of satisfying my curiosity about how it all would develop. To a great extent the Baron did an excellent job and was, as a gentleman’s gentleman should be, considerate of my need to continue my work on my own so he left me to my devices, as I left him to his, until after having thoroughly washed my floors (which they needed), straightened out my kitchen (which was also needed, although I am still unable to find some things) he had started to play with my various objects of art in home decoration to the point that the one and only time in four days he had interrupted me he came to my office which was in a separate building to excitedly tell me that he had finally achieved what he had been seeking and would I come to see it. Feeling very much like the father of a 10 year-old I dutifully put down my tools. left my computer, walked the across the garden under a now darkened sky toward my house and as we approached the door to my living room saw the entire room ablaze with lit candles on counters, tables, stands and the like and with miniature little alters here and there. Somewhat

stunned but also somewhat amused at the similarity between what I was looking at and scenes in pornographic movies where love-making is by candle-light, I unthinkingly, from my fund of unconventional humor, blurted out “Are we going to make love now?” The Baron very soberly announced “I don’t do boys”. He seemed to have entirely missed the humor of my comment but remained entirely thrilled by his accomplishment. While the results of his imaginative playfulness with my possessions, some very valuable, undoubtedly served to satisfy some deeply seated need to function as a caretaker, par excellence, when he finally left under some mild pressure from me with the announcement that I was now expected to function as a tutor to the client of a friend of mine and needed my space he reluctantly left to make some other important arrangement. Here we have, I believe, a person with established academic achievements, who, still at the age of 53, not having been successful in satisfying a need to arrange a pleasant environment for another person, although he’s had 2 ½ wives and two boys, so when the opportunity presented itself he took advantage of it, and, like some environmental artist, to seek the approval of an appreciative audience. He failed, however, in understanding both the nature and the parameters of my appreciation and I found myself with a destroy ed expensive paint brush , a painted sculpture stand that I wouldn’t have painted, least of all to have painted it gold and a disassembled crystal chandelier with its parts adorning artifacts throughout the living room. This sort of things happens, it would seem, when creative and symbolic behaviors are frustrated early on and later opportunities encourage a misapplication of the creative energy. To myself I had to agree that he was absolutely correct that those were the kinds of services I had chosen not to do for myself in favor of accomplishing something which seemed to be more urgent such as my creative work, my research, writing and artistic production relatively unencumbered by the orthodox social behaviors of house keeping, but by the same token I could not allow myself to become the response to his need for caretaking. The last anecdote I will relate is of a 15 year-old boy called Joe, a very quiet, unassuming, fellow, the son of the school janitor

a French Canadian in a predominantly English environment in Sturbridge, Massachusetts. He was about to fail for the third time, that is, he was scheduled to redo the ninth grade for the third time when I spoke to the school psychologist and told him that I doubted very much that the I.Q. of 90 which was part of the official school record was correct and I asked that Joe be retested. I explained to the psychologist that anyone who could develop such a richly elaborated series of drawings as Joe had done simply could not have such a low I.Q. The retesting was accomplished and Joe’s official I.Q. was changed to 110. That was a change in the I.Q. score of 20 points when officially I.Q. scores could not change. His grades, interestingly enough rose from a D- average to a C+. I do not know how Joe may have finally developed, for I left that environment but I have often wondered whether he had been able to augment this new-found confidence in self or whether he had fallen back into the more familiar state of believing in peer assessment and authoritarian judgment. These five or six examples are examples of our failures as a community of fellows and examples of our lack of faith in the divinity of man. I realize that that phrase is not likely to go over well with a number of people because of what it suggests in terms of a sentimental religiosity. Please, do not interpret it in that light. What it is meant to do is to refocus our attention on the infinite potential of mankind. However, there seems to be a difference between the male and the female. It may only have been because I am male that no females have ever come to me with similar problems of identification. The only time a female has ever come to me with a concern other than biologically erotic was when a particularly intelligent and observant student after many weeks absence from class came to tell me that she had been diagnosed as having brain cancer and wanted to assure me that he past and her future absences would have nothing to do with my ability to teach. I recently (2005) read of an experiment involving chimpanzees and children between 4 and 7 years where in the experimenter had placed some food (or desirable item) in an opaque tube and placed the tube in an equally opaque box, closed the box. He then showed both sets of subjects, chimpanzees and children, the process by which the item might be retrieved. Two of the maneuvers were quite unnecessary. Both sets of Ss followed all maneuvers as had been illustrated.

Later the experimenter repeated the process but eliminated the two unnecessary maneuvers. Only the chimps went directly to the desired item eliminating the unnecessary maneuvers, the children continued to replicate them. If I remember correctly the conclusion of the experimenters was that the children continued with the irrelevant maneuvers even though they knew they were not, in a practical sense, required for the successful retrieval of the item because they had accepted the symbolic requirement of those maneuvers, somewhat the way people behave in group social situations, in church services, congressional conclaves, football games and entertainment centers. . That conclusion, if I remember it correctly, certainly seems to be a possibility, however, it might also be that the child had a more defined understanding of “play”; or that the chimp culture was more rooted in more directly practical solutions to problems like hunger. Or the chimps may actually have been more hungry than the children.