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June 01, 2016 Wednesday 07:12:48 PM IST

Bolts from blue and random stimuli

Creative Living

Creative ideas are often results of some bolts from the blue. Originating ex nihilo, out of void, they charge creative minds with creative prowess. They facilitate immediate synthesis of fragments of thoughts in the mind into a creative whole. They create an undeletable mark in the core of their being as an abiding source for creative thinking. Many creative minds have experienced such intense moments of perennial charging that transformed their lives into creative sagas. Random stimuli are milder version of the bolts from the blue. They also trigger creative charging of individuals and enhance their creative skills. For Isaac Newton, the stimulus was an apple falling on his head! In the pain of it, he instead thought about the forces that have driven the apple exactly on to his head! He conceived of a new type of force acting on the apple and directed to the heart of earth. Newton concluded that gravitational force is exerted by earth on all free-falling objects due to the mutual gravitation between the object and the earth. If you drill a hole of depth 6,371 kilometers on the surface of earth, the apple would have continued to fall through that hole, till it reaches the very centre of earth. This constitutes Newton’s theory of universal gravitation.


This theory explains not only how an apple falls towards the surface of the earth, but also provides the reason why the moon does not similarly collapse to the earth. A similar trigger occurred to Einstein when he developed the theory of LASER as he reflected over the absorption and emission of radiation by a material body. When he considered the equilibrium between rate of absorption of light by a material body and that of emission by the same body, an essential mismatch between them was exposed. Einstein predicted the existence of a new type of emission to balance the absorption, namely the “stimulated emission”. LASER, by the way, is an abbreviation of Light Amplification due to Stimulated Emission of Radiation. Einstein writes to his friend Michele Angelo Besso in November 1916, immediately after this discovery:”A splendid light has dawned on me about the absorption and emission of radiation...” That splendid light was LASER! To Moses, it appeared like a ‘bush fire’: the bush, though it was set on fire, it was not consumed by it. He exposed himself to a great call from within to liberate his own people in order to lead them to a ‘promised land’. Moses thus became an icon and role model of a visionary leader, who buried an inspiring mystery of a ‘burning bush’ in the chest of his heart as he led masses to a welfare nation. Even when his own people rebelled against his person, Moses could continue to lead them by being in touch with a mysterious fire enshrined within his inner core. This happened to Vâlmîki who stepped into the river Ganges for his daily ablutions, when he saw a happy crane couple mating. Suddenly, hit by an arrow, the male bird died on the spot and its mate screamed in agony and sorrow and died of shock. Vâlmîki’s heart was broken at this pitiful sight and when he looked around to find out who had shot the bird, he saw a hunter with a bow and arrows, nearby. Vâlmîki burst into a shot of temper and cried out “Ma Nishada”, “Forbid you, hunter”. That was the first ever Sloka of Sanskrit literature, the opening verse of the epic Ramayana. The incident serves as a classic example to show how a powerful incident could trigger a totally new stream of thought. Poetry after all is a result of overflow of powerful emotions!


How do ‘bolts from the blue’ work?


A bolt from the blue strikes from the cloud to the ground, resulting in brilliant lightning that touches the earth. It is a result of some atmospheric disturbances (like differences in temperature, dust storms, forest fires, tornadoes, volcanic eruptions), which electrically polarize the atmosphere, leading to the formation of electrically conducting plasma channels through the air, which appears as the flash of lighting that neutralizes the atmospheric charges. About 1.4 billion such flashes are estimated to happen in a year, whose energy, when properly harnessed, is sufficient to partially meet the primary energy needs of earth. Similarly works the bolts from the blue that trigger individuals. It renders creative minds with tremendous energy sufficient to transform their lives entirely. They are molded into creatures, throbbing with everlasting creativity. Those events translate into a perpetual source of their creativ prowess in them. They become scientists like Isaac Newton or Einstein, powerful leaders like Moses or poets like Valmiki.


How do random stimuli work?


The milder version of bolt from the blue is the random stimuli. It is analogous to the Newton’s apple or Einstein’s splendid light. However, random stimuli are seemingly irrelevant external influences acting on creative minds. They are powerful enough to generate radically new ideas. How does it work? Human brains work based on a kind of pattern recognition. The mental patterns are framed in the course of time along with the growth of synaptic connections between neurons. This leads to the unique thinking style and thought pattern of an individual. Such patterns help in making thinking process efficient. However, it also renders humans creatures of habit, naturally resistant to novel thoughts. Humans are generally apprehensive of new ideas that do not fit our pre-established ‘mental patterns’. Human brains are made elastic and it always regains its original shapes and patterns, once relieved of external stimuli. This also means that to generate new ideas, humans need to compromise with their mental frameworks and even break it. They need to render their brains more plastic, so that they oblige to an external stimuli freely. At the same time, human brains are excellent self-organizing systems. They knot new connections rather easily, if not freely. Hence, a chance or random event can open up a new vantage point to enter the existing patterns of thinking and to engender new connections in the brain. The new mental associations generated with the aid of random stimuli may produce ‘Eureka effect’, intuition or insight. Such mental intrusions due to external stimuli could happen accidentally, as occurred to Sir Isaac Newton. However, such accidental external stimulus is unpredictable and often extremely slow. One could also break the mental patterns deliberately. This can be compared shaking the apple tree well so as to cause apples to fall down the tree, triggering creative minds. Such deliberate tools may work faster and effective. For example, to work out a mental impasse, I used to randomly select and read a text from an arbitrary source, be it a news paper, holy books, or some random book. I have invariably found that those randomly chosen texts always contain messages suited for creative problem solving. One may ascribe such Guidance from without as manifestations of Divine Providence that beacons the paths of life. How true! It is equally important to multiply the God-given creativity talents with our own careful efforts.


The Random Stimuli Method


The Random Stimuli method is useful when you are at the end of your wits, as you run out of ideas or when you get stuck with in your project or when you want to generate creative ideas for a fresh project or when you want to get out of a stalemate. Edward de Bono provides in his book, “Teach your child to think” a powerful lateralthinking technique, random input that is very easy to use. The random input could be either a random word or a random image. The general procedure of both these methods is identical:


1. Choose a random word or a random image


2. List different attributes and associations of the random word or image


3. Make free associations of these attributes to the problem at hand


4. List all ideas thus generated For example, consider that you are tired of getting unsolicited email and you are searching for a solution. Your random word is BANANA. The attributes of banana includes its ability to attract insects. Banana works as an effective magnet for insects towards a trap.


Can you develop something that attracts the unsolicited emails in order to separate them from the wanted emails, selectively trapping them in view of their deletion? Can you develop a new generation trap for junk mail based on this idea? Or suppose you are pondering over a new generation school sitting on a beach. You observe a Sea Gull landing over the sea. That may inspire you to think of a new generation school that equips the students to deftly land on turbulent waters of a globalized world. You may decide that your new school focuses on suitable skill development to enable your students to be experts in that. In adopting the Random Stimuli Method for lateral/creative thinking care must be taken to avoid the following:

1. Do not discard the random input and move on to another random input


2. Do not discard this method and shift to an another method of creative thinking


3. Never give up the efforts in the middle of the program The Random Stimuli Method is a powerful method of lateral thinking that delinks your mind with its usual patterns and freely associates it with new concepts. It enhances your imagination skills, and equips you to think creatively.

Dr. Varghese Panthalookaran

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