In an essay on creativity the philosopher Henri Bergson writes about the impossibility of there being a possible future that is already in some sort of virtual existence. He suggests that unlike the architectural plans for a building which precede the production of the building itself, there is no virtual future in the past waiting to be revealed. Predicting the future artifacts of creativity is a pointless and impossible task Bergson suggests, there is no way of predicting how creativity will be channeled through the conduit of a creative mind, there is know one not even Shakespeare could know Shakespear would write hamlet. Bergson considers the product to be of greater significance than the person who created it. Referring to Hamlet he asks, which is richer: the product or the person?
As we had been discussing the creativity of evolution I wondered how this question would apply to nature; which is richer, nature or evolution? And then broadening the question out further; which is richer the universe or the processes that created it? – general relativity, quantum mechanics and the big bang (as far as current science goes)
Starting and the end so to speak with the biggest picture, trying to disentangle the universe from the processes that create it is a thankless task. The universe exists in general relativity; in time and space and according to general relativity time and space are not different things but simply different ways of measuring the same concept – spacetime. (the faster something travels through space the slower it travels through time and vice versa) So the universe is a process that we humans happen to perceive moment to moment. We say this is how the world is now but that is because of the perspective we are looking at from not because that is the way it is. We are always traveling through space time so can never see it from the ‘outside’. The universe is not a product or artifact but a continuous unfolding process.
Similarly trying to disentangle a flower from evolution is simply different ways of looking at the same thing, without evolution there is no flower and flowers exist in time and are constantly changing due to evolution – and the forces of nature of course. A flower is an example of evolution in progress and the world as we see it now is an example of all the forces of nature in progress at this point in time.
From this perspective, all created products are also simply examples of the creative process unfolding at a moment in time. Products come into being are appreciated, age and change over time. The words of Hamlet might be the same as those Shakespear wrote but each generation’s interpretation of those words is coloured by their culture. A twenty-first century audience can not see through the eyes of an Elizabethan one. Taking this one step further to consider the person as the agent of creativity, are not they too simply temporal elements of the creative process? People are born, live and die, they exist through time, the ideas they come up with and the manufacture of outcomes they produce are all products of a process of living, creating, existing through time.
From this perspective at least it seems that considering creativity as process is more likely to lead to deeper understanding than the subjectively manufactured human centred idea of equal primacy of person, process and product.
Perhaps like the holy trinity with its three manifestations of the concept of God, there is creative process the person, creative process the process and creative process the product as three manifestations of the same concept – the process of creativity?