Learning to Unlearn|Oct 10, 2012 4:00 AM| by:

Creativity and Insanity

Is it necessary to be a little mad in order to be creative?  In an interesting article in the Economist, “In Praise of Misfits,” the columnist Schumpeter examines the question, “Why business needs people with Asperger’s, attention-deficit-disorder and dyslexia.”  Schumpeter cites William Whyte who argues in his book “Organisation Man” that companies looking for “well-rounded executives” are making a big mistake because they are missing out on creatives who tend to be a little imbalanced.   Recent studies and research outlined by Schumpeter seem to indicate that many successful and creative entrepreneurs and employees in the corporate world have some form of psychological malady like Asperger’s syndrome, autism, attention-deficit disorders and dyslexia.  As a result of these new studies, many companies are moving towards the other extreme.  As Schumpeter points out, “Today many suffer from the opposite prejudice. Software firms gobble up anti-social geeks. Hedge funds hoover up equally oddball quants. Hollywood bends over backwards to accommodate the whims of creatives. And policymakers look to rule-breaking entrepreneurs to create jobs. Unlike the school playground, the marketplace is kind to misfits.”

The main problem here is that effect is mistaken as the cause.  Creativity may lead to a certain amount of imbalance.  But the imbalance is not the source of creativity.  There are two reasons why creativity may lead to disturbance or imbalance in the personality.

On a deeper perspective, creativity is the result of a higher force of Nature beyond the ordinary mind working in the human consciousness.  So a creative person feels a much greater creative pressure on her mind, heart or brain than the non-creatives.  This may lead to a certain amount of imbalance in the personality.  If some part of the mind, heart or brain is unable to bear the creative pressure, it can get damaged.  While those parts of the brain or consciousness which are strong enough and receptive can receive, assimilate and express the creative force, the other parts which are unable to bear the creative force may get ruptured.

The second factor is that if a professional activity requires the exercise of a single part or faculty of the brain or mind and the individual spends most of his time and life in that particular faculty then the other pars and faculties may get weakened.  For example, Charles Darwin, in a poignant passage in his autobiography, bemoans that he has become a scientific machine ferreting out facts and as a result lost the aesthetic and emotional sensitivity of his earlier years.

However such imbalances are not something unavoidable.  They can be corrected through a systematic education and discipline based on the practices of Indian yoga such as building inner peace, widening of the consciousness and a conscious attempt towards a balanced development of the faculties of the body, mind, heart and soul.  For example, unlike Darwin, Einstein kept his passionate interest in music along with his scientific pursuits.

Being creative and “well-rounded” are not mutually exclusive things.  It is perhaps possible to be both through a path of integral education.