You don't HAVE to be crazy.......but---

Discussion in 'Philosophy' started by don_mckeith, Sep 30, 2007.

  1. Biological Basis For Creativity Linked To Mental Illness
  2. I wonder if "latent inhibition" can be learned. It seems like the era of psychedelic revelation of the sixties was in part based on that idea. Of course, using artificial stimuli to break down intellectual inhibitions can be dangerous; but nonetheless I remember reading Carlos Castaneda and being fascinated by the idea that the world could be revealed in previously unseen ways by way of supervised pharmacology. Alas, my own experimentation was unsupervised and eventually led me down a less fruitful path -- as a friend once said, "Drugs can show you the way, but they won't get you there."

    Getting back to the article, I did not see that the authors of the putative study actually identified a biological basis for creativity. Rather, it appears that they were describing a biological response (i.e., I suppose they were measuring brain activity). A pet peeve of mine is that schools here in the United States seem to have adopted a mission of stifling creative thinking. I remember hearing an interview with an artist who would speak in schools, and he said that he would ask the question "Who here is an artist?" The kindergartners would almost unanimously and excitedly raise their hands; the later the grade the fewer hands that went up, and the more timid they were to admit to being an artist.
  3. Kids! Don't do drugs, do arts..

    or something like that..
  4. jtk


    I read Castaneda's early books when published (some say he didn't write his later books) and was around some of his hangers-on as a young man (people who claimed he existed as an individual and was not just a publisher)...I'm not sure he ever said "the world could be revealed by way of supervised pharmacology."

    I do remember his descriptions of parallel worlds that we might consider dreams...except we wouldn't consider them dreams if we were dreaming...we'd consider them "real worlds," just as he reported. Same with some people who are psychotic (delusional, hallucinating).

    I don't buy it that kids refrain describing themselves as being artists, but I come from a part of the US where "artist" is assumed of everybody, since it's a "nice" meaningless compliment. Sounds to me like that "artist" was telling the interviewer something in order to get special status.

    Similarly, I don't buy the idea that "creativity" is linked more to mental illness than to absence of mental illness.

    In fact, I think "creative," "artist," and "mental illness" are dubious labels, especially when applied by researchers who, ideally, would be so analytic that they wouldn't know a "creative," "artistic," or "mentally ill" person if bitten by one.

    "Mental illness" covers too much turf to mean anything. Doesn't it include terrorists? autistic kids? alcoholics? serial killers? depressed rape victims? That anyone throwing the concept around should immediately be ridiculed if they pretend to be doing science about it.
    Does the author of the "research" understand the suffering that most crazy folks experience?

    My city was recently deemed one of the top in the US for "creativity." Why? Specifically, according to the authors of the study, because they did a poll of certain segments of our community and concluded we have a large gay population. Everybody knows gays are "creative," right? No gay truck drives. No gay engineers. No gay grey bureaucrats in Department of Motor Vehicles. Sheesh.
  5. I had a renter who read Castenada's books back in the seventies. One evening he arrived with a large bag of Peyote that he prepared in a skillet in my kitchen and then proceeded to eat while I cautiously watched. He became incredibly ill and spent a large part of the night praying to the porcelain god. I think perhaps that this is what Castaneda really had in mind when he wrote the books :)
  6. Absolutelly. That old mushroom freak. Catch him, feed him a little piece of photopaper, he will be straight good next week. Not to mention other things he has deserved so well.
  7. jtk


    I know, to some degree, a lot of Navajo reservation people. All have been damaged to one degree or another by Christianity, many have affiliated with Native American Church (a Midwestern alien thing), and some are moving back into Navajo basic stuff, which is a lot like a casual Buddhism only it's not as serious and it does have a few amusing semi-deities.

    While in Native American Church they all periodically have "church day" and other events where they drink peyote tea. The women in particular seem to credit that with strength and happiness. The men however tend towards alcoholism, per Christian tradition. Then, however, some of the men are reborn...they decide to move back to traditional Navajo practices...they suffer Navajo sweat lodges, which are far more terrifying than plains Indian versions because they're nearly totally dry and the space is far smaller. As it happens, what the men are doing is consistent with what the grandmother and great-grandmother generation insists upon, which is to return to their tribal tradition. When they return they do seem to stop being alcoholics and drug addicts, but it's too late for their sons.

    If this is of interest to anybody I suggest they connect with that outfit doesn't claim to know anything about this dimension, but in truth they do. They're not all Navajo. Navajo people have various taboos that obstruct this kind of talk.
  8. jtk


    Listen to "Ritaahhhaaa"

    This is the accent in English, maybe exaggerated a little. A beloved song.
  9. "In fact, I think "creative," "artist," and "mental illness" are dubious labels, especially when applied by researchers who, ideally, would be so analytic that they wouldn't know a "creative," "artistic," or "mentally ill" person if bitten by one."
    Really, everything John Kelly said...took the words right out of my mouth. For me, I look at the non-creative people in the world (the bean counters, techs, etc) and I truly feel sorry for them! My brother is in this camp. He is absolutely devoid of ANY and ALL creativity. Since I was a kid, my father always said "if you shrunk patrick down and put him inside of a ping pong ball, he would find somthing to do!" Well, that is true. My brother on the other hand will watch re-runs on the most beautiful day of the year while I am finding somthing - anything else to do or get into. I suspect that the majority of people fall into this trap of having there minds held hostage by "babysitters" such as TV, etc. insted of creating somthing more exciting and rewarding. I know as a fact that I am cut from a different cloth than 99% of the world. Yeah, I am borderline nuts and everyone who knows me will say that. But I look it as a gift! I would shoot myself if I were like everyone else. How boring there lives must be!
    I think there is alot to this article, although I STRONGLY disagree with the whole "mental illness" thing. As John and a few others stated, how do you really define mental illness? Does the fact that you do not subscribe to the plain, boring, uninteresting life of others make you mentally ill? Just because you do not see the world the way others do, does that make one mentally ill? I look at THOSE people like they are mentally ill! I used to talk to some of the bums on the street that I would see every day on my walk from the Metro to the National Gallery of Art. There general concensious was that it was US - those who woke up every day, stressed ourselves to death and worked dead end jobs only to not see our familys, etc, and who paid taxes, bills, etc - who were the crazy ones. You know, in a way I can absolutely see there point!
  10. Hi John, the phrase regarding supervised pharmacology was one I coined as I reflected on what I got from the Don Juan series. Of course, nearly everyone my age and older can recall Timothy Leary saying much the same thing, and I am personally impressed with the music of the Beatles and others which seemed to take off after the artists experimented with psychedelics. That being said, I don't think it's appropriate for children, and I rather think of drugs in general as something that supplements a failed childhood -- regrettably, almost always supplementing it in a bad way.

    As for the artist who was being interviewed, I am unable to track down who he was or where I heard him (he was on NPR or its local affiliate here in the Bay Area which is KQED). What he said though rings true to me, since I see few adults who consider themselves artists and yet nearly every preschooler has that potential. The question IMHO is not if the artist's predisposition exists to a nearly universal extent in youth and is lost by adults, but rather when it is lost and why.

    A movie I saw many years ago ties pretty directly into this topic and the direction it is taking here, it is called Koyaanisqatsi and is an amazing blend of music by Phillip Glass and scenes of the modern world juxtaposed against scenes of nature. The name of the movie is a Hopi word which translates as "life out of balance".
  11. "-it HELPS."
    During my early youth (5 or 6) I had at least a few episodes which, armed with the
    language of adulthood, I would have described as psychotic. Voices literally crowded my
    head, like fifty conversations happening in a phone booth. I kept this to myself then,
    understanding even at that age that it was a thing to be feared.
    In later years, through my teens, my desire for escapism led me to expiriment with
    psychoactive substances on more than one occasion. (Castaneda never impressed me, but
    a I was curious about Leary) They sometimes induced the same frantic conversations in my
    head, and the same fear. But these dabblings led me to quickly understand that, though
    fun they may be, it was no way to grow in life.
    Then I began to draw, and to paint, and to print. These demons seemed to excorcise
    themselves overnight as I poured my id onto the paper in an orgy of creative lust. I could
    not get enough of it and I was never without a drawing book and stylus of some kind
    throughout my twenties.
    Then in 95-6 all that changed and I took up the Camera.
    I would be okay with the use of the analogy that the Camera now serves that purpose in
    my life. It is my favorite drug, and thank God I found it in time.
    The idea that the crazies of the world give us a glimpse into divinity is an old one. I've had
    some pretty strong spiritual moments standing before Van Gogh at the MFA, and reading
    Tolkien and C.S. Lewis (Both Nutters). That our minds work differently is a blessing, not a
    curse. If there were none like us, and all were born 'normal' then who would point out the
    color of the grass as beautiful?

    Finally: I was of the generation who grew up watching George Lucas films. the
    phenomenon of 'The Force' which threads through his first three Star Wars films is a
    magical one, imbued with mystical power and spiritual energy. That was the gist.
    Then in Lucas' latest foray into that series he reduces 'The Force' to some biochemical
    reaction with a symbiotic microbe living in the hosts bloodstream.

    I prefer the magic, don't you?
  12. All patients in mental institutions are political prisoners. What is defined as sane or insane, creative or just strange, good or bad is all subject to political whims. Sometimes those whims are quite easy to defend; sometimes they are quite arbitrary. But they are all political in nature.

    Most of the really interesting people of the world find themselves on the lunatic fringes of all the bell curves. It is a fine line between eccentricity and insanity, or creativity and mental illness. I think Don Juan would have got along well with Picasso or Dali.

    For me, this report is like many other studies in the field of psychology. Someone has gone to great lengths to find out what most would have guessed to be true. If your mind seems to work differently, it's because it is, in fact, working differently. Hmmmm.........
  13. IMO the discussed issues need to be clarified separately. I suggest that:

    1. Creativity is a common feature for all people equally. Some work on it and develop to a degrees while others ignore it for the sake of social conformism. The further demand clear mind, faith, tallent and lots of dedicated work. The results might be asocial to some extend.

    2. Mental ilness is a factor some people may happend to be a subject to. Being such they continue to be creative and might produce an interesting works of art. There are few museums for this kind in Europe. The art making is therapeutical to some mild forms, like one Alexander has described above.

    3. The use of controled substances may go different ways and basically they are controled for a good reason. Looking at known art works of classical period or, say, Italian renaissane, one usualy do not get impression of it was made on mushroom eating while some of modern popart made me think the authors had been to McDonald's more then once..

    4. There are people who pose as mentaly special kind of artist in order to not go to work everyday. These basically never produce anything, including artworks.
  14. As to the last comment-Thomas Szaz was not totally correct in saying that psychiatrists are the mental policeman of our society. While there is some of that, there really are people with thought disorders that cannot take care of themselves, are dangerous to others, or both. The institutions were "liberated" in the 60s and now there are lots of homeless people who walk around talking to themselves and urinating in public places. (No, not all homeless people have a thought disorder). While we don't understand the disorders so well, it is not a whim to try to take care of them or protect them from themselves.
  15. "Whim" may be a flippant term here, but certainly the vagaries of political correctness and changing social norms determine what will be called mental illness and what will be simply eccentricity. As for those who will hurt themselves and others, of course we need to prevent both from happening, but even ideas about danger to self and others change with the times. At one point witches were burned at the stake to protect society from the harm they could do. Now we don't. Mostly.

    The warehousing of mentally handicapped people during the 50's is another good example of political prisoners. Now we have Guantanamo Bay as another example. Who decides what is harm to self and others? Who can decide such questions? Psychiatry? It doesn't have a very good record of avoiding politically charged diagnosis, I'm afraid.

    These are not easy questions, and I do think that there are some people who should be political prisoners. But I think it is important to keep in mind the political nature of such choices. It may help prevent abuses in the future.
  16. per my Websters: Political: of or pertaining to politics. Politics: The science or art of political government. Politic: shrewd or prudent in practical matters; tactful; diplomatic.

    Recognizing those with thought disorders and protecting them is a soft art. Lots of room for error. Calling all "mental disordered" people political prisoners only states the obvious that society asks to be protected from extremes of behavior. some of thes behaviors become accepted over time; not the dangerous ones.

    William Blake, Henry Thorough and others might demonstrate that being on the edge of madness is ok IF one can support ones self and not threaten others. If that is the case, then nothing wrong with a few visions amonggst friends.

    I recall that ranting in public might rightfully attract the attention of the authorities-try working the ER on the night of a Grateful Dead Concert. Can permanent creativity result? maybe. Is permanent madness a good thing? hardly. I've tried it (tongue in cheek).
  17. jtk


    "Most of the really interesting people of the world find themselves on the lunatic fringes of all the bell curves. It is a fine line between eccentricity and insanity, or creativity and mental illness. I think Don Juan would have got along well with Picasso or Dali."

    I think that is a popular myth.

    First, it doesn't allow "really interesting" to apply to ANY of the fine photographers, commercial or "artistic" that I've known in person (hundreds). It doesn't allow "really interesting" to apply to fully sane, brilliant, and conventional non-artists among athletes, naturalists, story-telling elders, physicians, dedicated musicians, craftsmen, cattlemen...etc etc etc.

    Second, it assumes "bell curves" relate to individuals rather than being simplest-possible statistical descriptions of populations. Bell curves, by design, keep realities of individuals at arm's length. That's precisely why they're so popular among racists, bureaucrats, politicians, and "educators".

    Third, while "Don Juan" may or may not have been a fictional character, we know that Castaneda himself existed as a successful, premeditated, linear-thinking money-maker, just as were Dali and Picasso (and Shakespeare for that matter).

    Forth, it suggests that Picasso and Dali portrayed hallucination. I do not believe that is even hinted by their biographies, in their videos , or in the body of their work. Their work stops being strange when you give it a little time and respect. Suburbs are "strange" to rural people and fish are "strange" to desert people.

    As well, Casteneda's writing is fairly mundane, suggesting an orderly mind. He obviously utilized ideas framed in traditional anthropology.

    My impression is that his main accomplishment was revisioning what we usually understand as dreams, giving them more significance as phenomena (without necessarily giving them meaning). I think of him as a popular psychologist, like a novelistic and less focused Tony Robbins.

    Compare his writing to "great novels" and Castaneda's perceptions seem constricted. He doesn't give us much that's important about the people upon whom he's reported (or created), all he knows is bits of lessons that may be "theirs" or may be "his".
  18. Why hasn't anyone tossed in Aldous Huxley and "Doors of Perception". I do so.

    Castaneda was not original, even if the setting was novel.
  19. John, think metaphor.

    Everyone who is a "fine photographer, comercial or 'artistic'" is already on the fringes of a bell curve of photographers. Any brilliant whatever is, by the definition of "brilliant", on the fringes of the bell curve of whatevers. My use of the bell curve metaphor was intended to illustrate that interesting people tend to be different from the (at the risk of being misunderstood again) norm. They are interesting, in part, because they are unusual. They are unusual, in part, because they are interesting. Unusual is the fringes of the bell curve for whatever quality you want to measure. That's all it means.

    My post doesn't imply or suggest or assume anything except the idea that most achievement of any kind is accomplished by individuals who are exceptional. And there is a fine line between exceptional and lunatic. Often the distinction of those two terms is determined only by the individual defining them, or by the social, economic, religious, and moral climate of the time. (I avoided the word political.)

    I have no intention of "suggesting" that Picasso and Dali were hallucinating (and I certainly didn't say it), but only that they were absolutely on the fringes of the bell curve of artists, as was Don Juan on the fringes of the bell curve of sorcerers, and that he would have appreciated their willingness to be artistic warriors. Whether or not Don Juan was fictional is irrelevant. He is just an allusion which everyone here seems to understand, so I used it.

    You don't have to be crazy, but you run the risk of being labelled so if you dare to venture to the ends of the bell curves of any activity. And, I will still argue that, way too often, the "crazy" or "creative" label is handed out according to the political (there, I used it again) climate of the time.
  20. jtk


    Larry, I think I know what you mean.

    I've got a strong, if antiquated, formal statistical background: "Bell curve" is a depiction of an observer's (purportedly quantitatively created) perspective, typically leading to crude theories.

    Happily, nobody exists in bell curves.

    By default I've spent most of my life around people who are either personally "creative." I think the term is too freely given, but around here it's a compliment, even when given by people who don't think it applies to them.

    Your use of "risk of being labelled" suggests worry about people you don't even know ("free floating anxiety"). I think there's a lot to learn about lots of people.

    "Don Juan would have got along well with Picasso or Dali."

    I don't think so. P & D were significant, accomplished, not delusional. Did you see Letterman with Paris Hilton? Like that.

    I don't know what Don Juan would have understood, or even noticed. He'd probably not have noticed most other folks, lacking the social skills, lost. Picasso, on the other hand, was evidently the life of the party. Dali had his own preoccupations. Being highly brainy Spaniards, I suspect neither would have been interested in a drugged Indian.

    DJ was Castaneda's vehicle for ideas about different states, dreams. I don't think that as a metaphor he related to photography or creativity as he didn't photograph or create.
  21. First of all, the research described in that article did NOT link creativity to any sort of biological basis. Whereas some forms of mental illness do show a genetic predisposition (a diathesis model), creativity has not been linked to anything innate.

    The author of that very old (2003) article took a correlation and suggested the scientists were claiming causality. That seems to be an intentional distortion of the research. I would label that yellow journalism.

    Anyone who has taken an intro psych course is familiar with the mantra "correlation does not prove causation!"
  22. jtk


    Rachel, Right on all points.

    One begins with a carelessly defined term ("mental illness" if it doesn't include alcoholics and terrorists, for example) and another term that's almost entirely meaningless ("creative"), cobbles up definitions and parameters, applies some correlative techniques, publishes, may or may not have had response from other researchers (seemingly unreported), then gets headlines.

    If there's been no scientific-seeming challenge to that "research" it's probably due to its absurd methodology and the reported "results." In other words, the journalism was bad, but the "science" was worse.
  23. > In other words, the journalism was bad, but the "science" was worse.

    Hard to say, I have heard more than one researcher defend their work after it was misreported.
  24. jtk


    Anthony, the press seizes on superficial stuff because they don't have enough depth to do more. We probably can't blame journalists for not being scientists.

    In the case that we've been discussing, the research itself was absurd because C- researchers invented quirky, generally unacceptable definitions for terms that barely have meaning: "creative" and "mental illness."

    The most demanding two years of my formal education had to do specifically with the design and execution of scientific research into behavior and perception. I understand in detail how this research was done based upon the abstracts (written BY the actual researchers) on the study we're discussing. I think they did a bad professional job and probably sought the publicity.
  25. I find that I take better pictures after downing a couple of glasses of wine.

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