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Sunday, April 30, 2017

"tremendous beauty and continuous revelation"

"Exploring the Psychology of Creativity" (click for the video.) Below are some quotes from a conversation between Marc Mayer, Director of The National Gallery of Canada, and Dr. Jordan Peterson, Professor of Psychology at the University of Toronto. March 9, 2017. I liked the video; you might also. Peterson has a Jungian perspective, and he leaves room for the dignity and freedom of human beings.

Professor Peterson, University of Toronto
Photo via BBC News Toronto
The known world inside chaos: "Imagine that the world is basically explored territory inside an unexplored territory.... Every world is like that."

Where artists live: "The artists like to be right out on the edge. That's the edge between chaos and order.  They like to expand the domain of order out into chaos. They do that first by transforming perception."

Artist on the edge: "You can fall into the chaos at any time."

Artist as dream: "Artists have always been on the frontier of human understanding. The artist bears the same relationship to society that the dream bears to mental life."

More artist as dream: "The dream mediates between order and chaos. It starts to make chaos into order, so it's half chaos. That's why it's not comprehensible. And artists play exactly the same role in society."

Old and New Worlds: "The beauty that the Europeans have produced, it's infinitely valuable.... People go from all over the world on pilgrimage to Europe just to look at beautiful things. It nourishes their soul. They're priceless. Paris is priceless. Rome is priceless. And it's all beauty that drives it. It's phenomenally valuable! And Canada is just ugly as sin. Really. Really. We should be ashamed of ourselves."

Ugly as sin: "Hell is a place of drop ceilings and fluorescent lights."

What there is other than worldly success: "One of the things that pays off big for creative people is that they get to be creative. There's great aesthetic joy in that, and depth."

Jung and the arts: "The reason Jungian psychology works is because it works for creative people. It doesn't work at all for non-creative people. It just falls dead and flat for them. It isn't how they think."

Power of art: "It speaks of the ultimate depths...."

The start of a great explanation of how publishing works according to an airport book shelf, and how winner takes all: "Half the money in the publishing business goes to Stephen King."

Openness as a personality trait for artists: "Creativity loads very high on openness."

The artist's gamble: "There's a high probability you will lose."

Teen telling parents about a desire to be an artist: "It's like discussing color with someone who is color blind."

Artists and society: "Artists and entrepreneurs are the same people."

On regimentation in schools: "They're factories. You don't produce creative people in factories. You produce factory workers. That's fine except there aren't any factory workers anymore, so we should probably stop doing it."

The pepper grain in a salt shaker: "Creative people are as rare as the winners of races."

Worldy success for artists: "You have to be more creative than everyone else, and good luck with that."


  1. There's much that I like here among his quotes -- especially those that exault that space between chaos and order (though for writers, I think it's often more unstable identities that transition -- did you ever read Carlo Shields terrific short story "Dressing Up for the Carnival"? ) And I don't actually agree with him about old and new worlds -- he thinks Canada is ugly, and the new might be -- but the very old, Inuit Art is gorgeous and a powerful view of the natural world. It isn't always about Cathedrals and Baroque buildings. I also think many parents far from being color blind might find a child's aspirations toward art a joyful thing (even if they did wonder how much financial support it might require ; >)

    1. He appears to love being bumped up against with disagreement and says that's how we learn, so I think he would like your comments. Yes, we certainly supported writing and visual arts with several of our children. And the Inuit art is lovely... I have a few pieces and love them. I think he was pondering cities there. Have not read that story. One for The List.

    2. And I should say that my own parents were fine with my desire to be a writer. My mother probably leaned toward my first version of adult life, where I was a professor and a writer, but she didn't try to persuade me.

  2. Teen telling parents about a desire to be an artist: "It's like discussing color with someone who is color blind."

    Well, there's also Flann O'Brien's take: "'Art' is so terribly often no more than a vocational malfunction.

    On regimentation in schools: "They're factories. You don't produce creative people in factories. You produce factory workers. That's fine except there aren't any factory workers anymore, so we should probably stop doing it."

    And here is where I am moved to bad language. I consider that defining the task of the school as the production of creative people is defining the school in advance as failures. The problem with American schools is not regimentation, it is a lack of the will to instruct, and a failure to provide resources where needed. Certainly we should have the schools provide resources for those who have a bent toward creativity. But their primary task should be to turn out literate, numerate eighteen year olds. They are not that good at this.

    1. I love the Flann O'Brien....

      Good comments on education--liked those too. "Lack of the will to instruct."

      He ought to read those comments!

    2. I should say that I don't wholly disagree with him, and that the tone of my remarks may have reflected a tired and irritable state.

      On the other hand, drop ceilings and fluorescent lights sound like one of my favorite places to shop for smoked meats and used books: .

    3. In the same place? I'll have to go look!

      He seems to feel, from what I've seen of him, that we move forward toward knowledge by disagreement and learning from one another. So I don't expect that he minds criticism.

  3. Loved this, Marly, including the comments above! I agree that Canadian cities and towns are ugly, now that I live here, but I haven't traveled in the country that much.

    1. He could have included most of North America... Sprawl is everywhere. Glad to live in a lovely older village with tight zoning, though sprawl has begun just outside the limits.

      One thing that fascinated me when I lived on the Canadian border was the way rural Canadian houses used a bewildering number of facing materials on houses--at least in parts of Quebec and Ottawa near me.

  4. But is sin ugly? That would surely make it unattractive. I am sinning now, in a very minor way, by sending you this comment, aware that vanity is one of my reasons for doing so. Hoping you'll receive what I say as disinterested when part of me is engaged in self-promotion. Not sinning, perhaps; does "peculating" deserve its walk in the park? Alas, it doesn't. It means embezzling. Yet I find myself willing to risk being wrong in the cause of being euphonious. Now that's sinning.

    1. Sin is alluring! It's right there in Genesis, all lovely and tempting, right? Somehow I doubt that you have transgressed divine law with your clever comment, Mr. Roderick alliterative Robinson....


Alas, I must once again remind large numbers of Chinese salesmen and other worldwide peddlers that if they fall into the Gulf of Spam, they will be eaten by roaming Balrogs. The rest of you, lovers of grace, poetry, and horses (nod to Yeats--you do not have to be fond of horses), feel free to leave fascinating missives and curious arguments.