August 29, 2010

Looking at the Gnostics from an era of wizardry

I’ve been reading The Complete Idiot’s Guide to the Gnostic Gospels, by J. Michael Matkin. I admire some things about the Gnostics, such as their poetic take on interpreting scripture and their DIY attitude towards mythology. Their view of creation as a mistake, though… not so much. But rejection of the world might have been an easier sell to people with harder lives than mine. I have it pretty good, compared not only to many of my contemporaries, but to most people (including the rich) throughout human history. Certainly I take for granted gadgets that would have been the most astonishing magic anytime before the last few centuries. Just the ability to conjure up music anytime I want puts me miles ahead of Hermes Trismegistus.

July 7, 2010

Going analog

Filed under: art,creativity — crcb @ 12:30 am
Tags: , , ,

I’m a fairly digital dude. I have my cell phone, my blog, my accounts on Twitter and Facebook and Gmail and Delicious, my MP3 players, my eReader. But sometimes, the old manual methods are best. Case in point: mind mapping.

VYM, a very nice, free piece of mind mapping software, is installed on my computer, and I’ve used it. It handily exports your mind map to a clickable imagemap or a linear outline. But creativity is the point of mindmapping, rapidity and flow and feeling and sheer physicality are necessary parts of the process, and computers get in the way.

Looking at a couple of hand-drawn mind maps from my journal, for instance, I see that the word “BETRAYAL” in one is harsh and pointy, and the word “snakes” in another is, well, snaky. I could have done something similar on my laptop, but only by switching to graphics software. It would have required more than the few seconds my fingers needed, and the results would have been less expressive. It would have broken the flow. And, most importantly, I can still remember how it felt to attack the page for BETRAYAL, and the twisty pen-strokes of snakes. Those sensations, those emotions, became part of the diagram. When I change the lettering or draw a frog, it brings more of me into the process than choosing a font or icon from a pre-determined list does.

And that’s another shortcoming of mind mapping software: you can only do what the software is set up to do. Every application I’ve seen requires one central node, and provides limited means of linking nodes to one another. You can choose solid, dotted or dashed lines, curved or straight. Working by hand, I can create three central nodes, or nineteen, or none. I can link one node to any number of others, or leave it isolated like a rock in a stream. I can scribble lines that go from loopy to jagged to barbed. I can glue string and beads and feathers to the page, or fold it, or tear it, if I think that’s relevant. Some of these actions go against the technical definition of a mindmap, but so what? When I work by hand, there are no limits; and isn’t that what creativity is about?

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