Developing Creativity

The hand-carved ribs of a Turkish fishing vessel [© Randy Olson/Getty Images]

The influential British historian Arnold Toynbee, who made an extensive study of world civilizations, believed that what causes civilizations to rise and develop is their ability to respond creatively to challenges and difficulties. The same could be said of individuals. Our ability to deal creatively with challenging situations and experiences plays a defining role in our personal development.

We associate creativity with the arts. But artistic creativity is only one expression of the great creative potential that we all inherently possess. In this broader sense, in line with the perspective of Buddhism, creativity could be thought of as the process of bringing forth wisdom and applying it in our particular circumstances to enhance the quality of our lives, and thus our happiness. This could include coming up with better ways of going about our daily tasks, or improving things at work or in our relationships.

Exercising our creativity often entails struggle, but the result is joy and an expanded sense of possibility. It requires us to go beyond the known, the familiar; it is the urge to explore new ground, a willingness to step outside our comfort zone.

By bringing out our creative capacities, we can begin to surmount and transform the challenges that confront us as individuals, as communities and as a global civilization. The articles in this issue of the SGI Quarterly aim to offer insight into this process.