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Intuition and Creativity

  • "The intuitive mind is a sacred gift, and the rational mind is a faithful servant. We have created a society that honors the servant and has forgotten the gift."
  • —Albert Einstein

Intuition is an immediate insight of understanding without reflection or rational thought processing. Because it is difficult to investigate and quantify, intuition is regarded by most modern cultures as unreliable, unscientific, and irrelevant to the real world. Most educational training teaches you to override your intuition and places rational thinking (which drives materialism) in higher regard. But in many other cultures, and increasingly so in modern Western culture, intuition is regaining its status of being practical in a different way. It is the nature of intuition to spark and guide creativity, and it is an essential ingredient for anything new in the "real world" to happen at all.

As is obvious, creativity is the act of making or inventing an entity that didn't exist before. Intuition sets the stage for the freedom of creative thought to occur; as such, it's a good strategy to prepare for it. Creativity is a personal process, and there is no formula that can force it—by nature it is spontaneous. But that doesn't mean you can't encourage it with preparation. Consider a ballet dancer. The dancer must have all of the physical supports in place to execute the dance: eating right, resting well, and practicing the dance moves and timing diligently. When the sequence and timing of the movements are embedded in muscle memory, the brilliance of creativity takes over and becomes spontaneously fluid—which is best known as art. Design, like dance, is about more than mechanics (Figures 1.3 and 1.4). Although technical skills smooth the execution, intuition lubricates the flow of creativity and has equal importance to technique and skill. Clearly, skill and intuition combine to form the most creative and inspired result.

Figure 1.3

1.3 This design was inspired by my appreciation of music expressed in the form of dance. The flow of the design is reminiscent of the intuitive process used to design it (as well as the subject matter), whereas the execution's success resides in the skill of combining technique and tool, in this case, Adobe Illustrator.

Figure 1.4

1.4 Flamenco dance evolved out of Moorish dance influences during the Renaissance. The exclamation "olé!" was derived from the exclamation "Allah!" shouted when a Middle Eastern dancer inspired the beauty of God in the audience.

The word intuition comes from the Latin intueri, roughly translated as "the teacher inside." Intuition, as the American architect, inventor, and futurist Buckminster Fuller said, "is having integrity with oneself." After a difficult period in his life in the late 1920s, with no money, no job, and his daughter dying from polio, Fuller considered committing suicide at the edge of a lake. Later, he recounted a voice coming to him and saying, "You do not belong to yourself. You belong to the universe." Maybe you've heard this voice during a particularly critical moment in your life. There is no doubt when you hear it that it is truthful, or at least wiser, than you might be in that moment. Because Buckminster Fuller wrote a book titled Intuition in his later years, I wouldn't doubt he knew his intuition was giving him a simple and profound instruction for his life's path. He went on to dedicate his life to finding out what he might do to benefit humanity. In a 50-year-long experiment of how the universe works, Fuller developed 28 patents, authored 28 books, and received 47 honorary degrees. His most well-known invention, the geodesic dome, has been produced hundreds of thousands of times worldwide. But his true impact lives on in his continued influence upon generations of designers, architects, scientists, and artists who use his principles to approach living through design in a more graceful way.

Let's look at a couple of personal stories of intuition and creativity.

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