Ideas on the wing

Creativity, it has been said, does not need to be developed but simply liberated. One day some time ago in Singapore, I observed one man's brainstorming session and watched the direct application of this principle. Very interesting it was. The man, who was the focal point, knew of no such theory; he understood, without knowing. Many have knowledge of the concept of how to arrive at solutions in this way but few can apply it so readily as he. Most of us have barriers to be put aside mentally to prepare us for this release , but for those who perceive this opening of the mind as a natural response, answers seem to be drawn easily from within.

In our household we encountered a disturbing problem for which we desperately needed a solution. The birds which flew so enchantingly over the dining area of our terrace were found to be, on close inspection, bats. True, they were a small variety, but once their genus was revealed it was no longer so appealing to have groups of them at dusk, winging overhead. When the luscious and prickly rambutan fruit began to ripen, the bats hurled the fruit against the whitewashed patio walls to break it open for eating, and in the course of time the walls became streaked with red finally turning to old teak in color.

My instant response was to put the problem in the hands of a firm of exterminators and it was with joy that I greeted the arrival of a Land Rover full of bat fighters. With breathing apparatus in hand and wearing black hooded suits, they began throwing miles of hoses looking like coiled cobras to the ground. I knew my solution was the wrong one. I felt that I was, in fact, repelling the invader when I directed them to take their lethal equipment and leave.

About this time, the spare figure of our gardener appeared, sarong-clad, barefoot and looking like an ancient holy man of sorts. His brand of quiet wisdom had been useful to me in the past, and I was not surprised to hear him say that he could handle the eviction of the thousand or so bats from their homes in the deeply recessed overhang which protected our windows from the heavy monsoons. He explained that he was glad i had sent the troop of men with their unfair weaponry away, and that he had determined to think of a way to solve the problem. Knowing something of the habits of birds in general he quickly hit upon a simple and highly workable solution. All he needed was a bamboo pole of about four meters and the bats would soon disappear, he promised.

The simplicity of his method was deceptive. He circled the entire house hourly during the bats' daytime sleeping hours, touching pole to overhang every few meters, making slight taps with the tip of the pole. The bats remained hanging as if unconscious of the slight jarring and the noise. Nothing happened. After several repetitions they began a disgruntled stirring and moving about, until, by the end of the second day, not one was left nor did any ever return in the two years we remained there.

Our inventive helper never did understand the excitement we experienced watching his own brand of creativity at work. In a more sophisticated society than the one in which we were living, his imaginative idea could have been scoffed at as childish. His innocence of perception liberated him from more commonly accepted approaches and his way of meeting the problem, unburdened as well as unsupported by wider knowledge, permitted him the freedom of mind to work out an acceptable and entirely original answer. No inhibiting fear that he might be wrong or that he would be laughed at kept him from trying out his method. He simply drew from his repertoire of keen sensory observations and let the answer develop like a print from a negative, until the means of solving the problem were perfectly clear.

If I were to have to choose one of the best problem solvers I have ever known , this old Malay gardener with his strong direct connection to the creative thinking process would be one of the first on my list. Carl Jung has said that during his lifetime the people who gave him the most were often the unrecognized and anonymous of his day. Experience has taught me the same.

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