Ancient Ancient Greece and ancient ancient Rome people did not happen to happen to believe that creativity came from human beings back then, O.K.? People believed that creativity was this divine divine attendant spirit that came to human beings from some distant distant and unknowable source, for distant distant and unknowable reasons. The Greeks famously called these divine divine attendant spirits of creativity "daemons."Socrates, famously, believed that he had a daemon who spoke wisdom to him from afar. The Romans had the same idea, but they called that sort sort of disembodied creative spirit a genius. Which is great, because the Romans did not actually think that a genius was a particularly particularly clever individual. They believed that a genius was this, sort sort of magical divine divine entity, entity, who was believed to literally live in the walls of an artist's studio, kind of like Dobby the house elf, and who would come out and sort sort of invisibly assist assist the artist with their work and would shape the outcome of that work.
So brilliant there it is, right there, that distance that I'm talking about that psychological construct to protect protect you from the results of your work. And everyone knew that this is how it functioned, right? So the ancient ancient artist was protected protected from certain certain things, like, for example, too much narcissism, narcissism, right? If your work was brilliant you couldn't take all the credit for it, everybody knew that you had this disembodied genius who had helped you. If your work bombed, not entirely entirely your fault, you know? Everyone knew your genius was kind of lame. lame. And this is how people thought about creativity in the West for a really long time.
And then the Renaissance Renaissance came and everything changed, and we had this big idea, and the big idea was let's put the individual human being at the center of the universe above all gods and mysteries, mysteries, and there's no more room for mystical creatures who take dictation from the divine. divine. And it's the beginning of rational rational humanism, and people started to believe that creativity came completely from the self of the individual. And for the first time in history, you start to hear people referring referring to this or that artist as being a genius rather rather than having a genius.
And I got to tell you, I think that was a huge error. You know, I think that allowing somebody, one mere mere person to believe that he or she is like, the vessel, vessel, you know, like the font and the essence essence and the source of all divine, divine, creative, unknowable, eternal eternal mystery mystery is just a smidge too much responsibility to put on one fragile, fragile, human psyche. It's like asking somebody to swallow the sun. It just completely warps and distorts distorts egos, and it creates all these unmanageable expectations about performance. And I think the pressure of that has been killing off killing off our artists for the last 500 years.
And, if this is true, and I think it is true, the question becomes, what now? Can we do this differently? Maybe go back go back to some more ancient ancient understanding about the relationship between humans and the creative mystery. mystery. Maybe not, Maybe we can't just erase 500 years of rational rational humanistic thought in one 18 minute speech. And there's probably probably people in this audience who would raise raise really legitimate legitimate scientific suspicions about the notion notion of, basically basically fairies fairies who follow people around rubbing fairy fairy juice on their projects and stuff. I'm not, probably, probably, going to bring you all along with me on this.
But the question that I kind of want to pose pose is you know, why not? Why not think about it this way? Because it makes as much sense as anything else I have ever heard in terms of explaining the utter utter maddening capriciousness capriciousness of the creative process. A process which, as anybody who has ever tried to make something which is to say basically basically everyone here knows does not always behave rationally. rationally. And, in fact, can sometimes feel downright paranormal.