Just the other day I saw an image of a woman with a cesarean section scar across her abdomen. I felt a sense of awe that it ever crossed someone’s mind to surgically remove a fully formed infant through the outer walls of its mother’s womb, sparing both lives simultaneously.
Then there are my parents, now in their 80s’s. Between them they have acquired two new knees, one new hip, and a brand new shoulder, all of which are functioning beautifully. When I call home and Dad says “Mom’s at art class today” or Mom says “Your father is out back staking the tomatoes” I am slack jawed and grateful. and wonder how it ever occurred to someone to remove a damaged joint and put in a shiny new one.
Oh, and have you heard that Duke University, drawing on previous work done at Stony Brook, is in clinical trials with a treatment that might someday successfully treat one of the most deadly forms of cancer? 60 Minutes recently reported on the revolutionary and surprising treatment in which doctors inject the Polio virus into tumors. While they have sadly seen some heartbreaking failures, they have also seen some stunning successes in destroying the tumors safely. Polio? Yes. Polio. I had become accustomed to thinking that there were no redeeming qualities in this monstrous infection which can do so much damage. Never in my wildest dreams did I think it could do anything but hurt, paralyze, and cripple. Does Polio have a good side? It takes a lot of courage to ask a question like that. Out loud. At work.
Creativity is a way of looking at life, isn’t it? I mean, who can argue that each of these radical and courageous ideas weren’t the result of medically ‘out of the box’ thinking? People responsible for extreme solutions to life's problems are people who look at the world as a flexible, expandable, sea of possibilities. They are people capable of taking their wildest dreams from “what if” to “why not?”
Not all creative thought results in widespread change, but it can help us out of tight spots (or into them, even). There is a certain level of creativity involved in getting what we need, regardless of how paradigm shifting our process may be. I know a little guy who built an entire replica of himself using his own clothes, socks, remote controls for arms, a paper bag with a face on it, and a winter cap. These items were meticulously arranged on his bed in an effort to fool his grandfather, who couldn’t see so well, into thinking he was taking a little nap. He must have forgotten that Grandma and Daddy could see just fine. Still, by the time the dreaded ‘too quiet’ feeling fell over the house and they found the imposter in his bed, he was out the door and playing with the neighbors, veins pumping adrenalized freedom… for a while. That was creative, and it solved his problem which was that he was sent to his room and he wanted to be outside. Had he been a little bit taller with a valid credit card he may have made it all the way to Disneyworld, but still, not bad for a 6 year old. He was quickly found, safe and sound. After his parents told me about it, and once I finally stopped laughing, I thought better them than me. After all, my admiration for his ingenuity would have been very hard to hide and who knows if I could have successfully quelled future break outs.
Creativity touches every aspect of our lives; every recipe we indulge in, every product we use, and every treatment we take. Almost everything we hold, sit on, or use every day- someone had to think of first, and then take the risk of sharing it. The next time you pick up your phone, open your microwave, or flush the toilet imagine how absurd any of these ideas must have seemed at one time. It isn’t just the art on our walls or the music pouring from our earbuds that came into being because of the creative process. Did you ever think about the nail that holds a frame to the wall? Nails haven’t always been. Someone had to think of, and create, the first one. The human mind is a thing of beauty and wonder… and wonderings!
Please come back on the third Wednesday of every month when we’ll be culling the unending topic of creativity.
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