I had the incredible experience of Pop!tech this past week. The theme was “America Reimagined” and some of the luminaries who spoke were: Dan Ariely, Will Allen, George Church, John Fettermn, Daniel Goleman, Tony Hey,Daniel Nocera, Gideon Obarzanek,Dean Ornish, Katy Payne, Michael Pollen, Reihan Salam, Paul van Zyl, Luis von Ahn, Michael Wesch….

It blew my mind.

Kyna Leski at Pop!tech 2009, photo by Kris Krüg
Kyna Leski at Pop!tech 2009,
photo by Kris Krüg

I also got the opportunity to make a presentation, that I call, “Cohering Entropy: Navigating the Creative Process.” You can read my entire lecture notes here. Some notes from parts of my talk:

A strange thing happened about 20 years ago, very early on in my career as a teacher. I gave a group of students this painting by Paul Klee, called Polyphonically Enclosed White, and I asked them to build the third dimension using only white glue and white museum board.


One of the students, John Schroeder, decided that he would assign different heights to each colored rectangle. He couldn’t tell me why he was doing this…but there was something about his sense of purpose that made me step aside and watch. He worked through the night and built this object and when he was done he held it up to the indirect sunlight coming from the north side of the building.
This is what he saw. He had somehow osmotically channeled the work of Paul Klee.

I am showing you this, not to mystify things… in fact….there is a good explanation of why the light is refracted in this way given the differing sizes and heights of this cluster of tubes. But there isn’t an easy explanation of how John arrived at this idea. This is what interests me: how we get there…or how we navigate the creative process.

I have been surprised and awed by the imagination many times since then. It has made me think I am an atheist and believe I am not. This dilemma draws me into the creative process in my teaching and my work.

How an artist gets to a discovery or invention is mystified in our culture…it’s outside the umbrella of words like “talent” or “genius.” These words keep us from seeing what is at work and keeps it in the periphery and not to be depended upon. I like to call talent or creative abilities, intelligences. One of the most important intelligences for an artist is sensibility. “Sensibility”—keen intellectual perception—not the optics of the eye or capacity of the sensory organs—but how we take this information and form a concept of the world and our place it. Sensibility is on the cusp between percept and concept…which is at the heart of intelligence.

. . .

Search engines gather for us. The founders of Google, stated that “if you had all the world’s information directly attached to your brain, you’d be better off.” And that he and his partner’s ambition for “perfect search engine” would be one that could understand exactly what you mean and gives you back exactly what you want.”

My ambition is the opposite: Creativity….is not in knowledge but in the way towards knowing. Discovery is about arriving somewhere other than where you wanted or expected. And invention is moving outside of what is known.

. . .

Dwelling in uncertainty is key to growth and moving beyond the known through the imagination.

Creative, process are two words neither of which are creative and both are more processed than process.I think of it as cohering entropy. A creative work makes its own necessity by cohering what wasn’t before and now we don’t want undone. Cohering by recognizing connections from the astronomical to the metabolic, by putting together what precedes, follows and is next to: coherence gathered, and meaning made.