The Unity of Opposites

 

There is a priori that takes us back to the earliest of Greek philosophers who spent inordinate amounts of time trying to unlock the universe’s mysteries. They named this particular theory “the unity of opposites”.
Granted, in todays world it’s about as obvious as Waldo in an nudist camp, but this was some time, in fairness, before we even discovered that the earth was round.

In bold strokes…
“ ‘Upward’ cannot exist unless there is a ‘downward’. They are opposites but they co-substantiate one another. Their unity is that either one exists because the opposite is necessary for the existence of the other. Hot would not be hot without cold, due to there being no contrast by which to define it as ‘hot’ relative to any other condition, blah, blah, blah.”
So we apply this concept neatly to many aspects of our world. Good would not exist were if not for evil. There would be no light if not for darkness. Humility could not be defined in the absence of Kanye West, nor sensibility without the condition we today recognise as Paris Hilton. You get the gist.

It stands, then, to reason, that in order for there to be art, there would need to be its antithesis. There is no noun, however, at least not that I’ve discovered that precisely serves this purpose. The closest adjective would be ‘artless’, I suppose, but even that falls shy of offering sufficient duality to truly describe this opposing disposition. I know that such a state exists, however, because on pondering the condition of being completely and utterly devoid of any artistic quality whatsoever, a face quickly manifests in my mind. One I know well. It’s the face of the man I married. If there is in fact an anti-Christ, my husband would be the anti-Art. Don’t get me wrong, there is nothing not to love about the guy. Fact is, there’s not a single artistic atom in his body and it’s  by far his most attractive quality.

This man hardly feels the need to keep up with popular culture. He thinks a Targaryen is someone who shops at Target, and that teens tweeting about “Tay-tay” are in fact referring to an impact crater on Mars. If art were empathy, he would be Ted Bundy. Were it discretion, Julian Assange. Diplomacy, Trump no doubt. We could go on all day. From his engineer’s vantage point he sees life as, and I quote, “A comes before B, 1+1=2, and water runs downhill.” He is a truly fascinating mammal.
I’ve come to know that the only quality he possesses to any extent comparable with his exceptional artlessness is a monastic sense integrity. This moral compass points unequivocally North and never wavers. Not because he continuously strives to do the right thing. He innately, just, does. It’s simply how he’s wired.

Me, I’m a little more creative. Mine is a simple world of necessary things like plotless subtitle movies with ‘great cinematography’, biblically convoluted fantasy novels, deconstructed soy macchiatos and obscenely priced suicide stiletto’s. I must admit, however, despite being a reasonably accountable citizen, I am a lot more inclined to occasionally… colour outside the lines, so to speak, and it has me curious. What is the true nature of the relationship between creativity and honesty?

Now I’m treading lightly here, as it’s not my place to offend, but in just scratching the surface of the cybersphere, there seems to be an abundance of notables on the matter, most bearing out my suspicions. The fact that there have been so many studies on the topic is in itself a little damning.
Research is research, so we’ll disclaim in the fine print that it’s not without exception, but what it suggests in a nutshell is that the term “creative accounting” never came about accidentally.
One such article speaks of creatives as having less intellectual regulation. This is apparently because the dorsolateral prefrontal region of the brain which acts as our censorship bureau is significantly relaxed during the creative process, that is, according to Francesca Gino and Dan Ariely in their Harvard University study, “The Dark Side of Creativity”.
“The reason for this seems to be that creative people can use their creativity to justify their actions in ways that less creative people cannot do. A lot of people, highly creative people as well as self-proclaimed creative people, will balk at this and claim that they are very honest. And it is true that they believe that. That is because their creativity is successful in convincing them that their behaviour is justified.”

This all sounds very academic. Let me simplify it. My engineer husband sees situations as right or wrong, black and white, clearly defined and linear… a bit like an Aubrey Beardsley. I may see the exact same situation as a more of, let’s say, a Jackson Pollock.
It’s easy to choose “right” when the vast galaxy of your selection consists exclusively of “the right thing” and “the wrong thing”. For some of us, however, there is a more extensive assortment of options, like a box of Cadbury Favourites. You know “the right thing” is in there somewhere but it’s awfully hard to find….and when you do, it’s often the Turkish Delight.

Creativity, like most human conditions, exists in all of us to varying degrees, and is something of a primal survival instinct . It took a creative spirit to spark the first fire, bend the first hunting bow and launch the very first season of custom designed loin skins more than a billion imaginations ago. It can be argued that the contribution of the creative has ultimately been to freely explore solutions for life’s diverse challenges. Such a mind may see many more options than a conventional thinker, and still engineer the odd alternative for good measure. To apply this skill opportunistically is sometimes easily done. This is why the world requires balance, where conventionals partner with unconventionals in order to anchor them, give them traction, help them materialise their ideas … and, let’s not forget, keep them honourable. The innovators of both art and science collaborate today as never before to progress our world. The “left brain, right brain theory” is nothing more than a theory, we now know. We all use most of our brain matter but in different measures and different ways.

As for Artless and I, well, we are the proverbial odd couple and a rather compelling testimony for the “unity” of opposites, which attract perhaps in order to bring two incomplete entities to completion. Who knows.

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