Creative Thinking

Harvey Firestone believed, “If you have ideas, you have the main asset you need, and there isn’t any limit to what you can do with your business and your life. Ideas are any man’s greatest asset.” All of my life I have been intrigued, and have studied diligently, about the phenomenon of creative thought. I have tried to explore imagination, curiosity, invention, innovation, idea generation, and even reasoning by metaphor and analogy.

At my present age, I must confess that I am no closer to saying confidently that I understand how God engineered, designed, appropriated, and infused into the head and soul of mankind a function that would allow a person to rightly comprehend a need, and then hatch a creative thought to meet that need.

I can get my head around the neurons, dendrites, electrical currents, and storage aspects, but from whence cometh the ethereal composition of creative, and unprecedented thoughts? From a practical standpoint, I have learned that the challenging needs of our lives must not become the overwhelming component. It is, rather, the utilizing and appropriating of that creative process of overcoming the challenges that becomes the important and enduring aspect. Never underestimate the need that is challenging you. And never underestimate the creative resources you have available to meet that challenge

I love observing the creative mind functions of the people of India. Computer programming would certainly not be what it is in the world today were it not for the folks from India. In the southern part of India around the area of Salem, they were experiencing a huge problem with people being bitten by poisonous snakes and dying from the venom. The area was well known for the chicken farms and for egg production. The chickens and eggs attracted large numbers of vipers that also fed off the chicken and egg production. When the workers would reach their hands into the nests to gather the eggs, the vipers would strike.

I was performing a needs assessment study at the large regional hospital that served a population of over twenty million people. I was walking down a corridor with the director of the hospital and one of the department heads. Most of the beds had wooden boards instead of mattresses. The emergency gurneys were made out of old bicycle parts with two bicycle wheels instead of the usual four small gurney wheels. The delivery beds for the birthing mothers were made out of 4’X 8’ sheets of corrugated metal with a hole cut in the middle and a bucket beneath to catch the afterbirth. It was all quite sad and pathetic.

As we walked down the corridor, however, I passed a small ward where there was a machine sitting along one wall. I abruptly stopped and remarked to the director, “I didn’t realize that you had kidney dialysis capabilities at your hospital.” “We don’t,” he replied. “But,” I protested, “that machine is a kidney dialysis machine. We just finished donating to Ukraine a complete dialysis set-up including the reverse osmosis water purifying machine and all! The machine against the wall is a dialysis machine.”

“Oh, that machine . . . no, we found that machine and it is busy almost all the time to take care of the many people who come here with poisonous snake bites. We run their blood through it and it filters out the venom and they don’t die.” “How very brilliant,” I remarked. They had encountered a need and had latched onto a creative and unorthodox idea to meet that need. But how in the world could the human mind ever even come up with a concept like dialysis?

We usually don’t start cutting our wisdom teeth until we are faced with a bite bigger than we can chew. Necessity is often the mother of creative thinking. The necessity of a solution and the challenge of the pressing situations usually prod us into utilizing the creative advantages that we have available to us. And I personally think it is time to stand and cheer for the creative thinkers, the ones who face the challenges and set their hearts and minds to the business of creating solutions to our most complex needs. After all, what is this thing we call genius if it isn’t the opening up of one’s potential to God’s unfathomable wisdom?

Generally speaking, our culture teaches us compliance and the seeking of positions of security and safety. But the very fact of being alive must include the courage to seek the creativity that is available to us. It has to go beyond forbearance of the problem to the area of creative solutions. While in Africa, I was introduced to an old coastal adage: “Smooth seas do not make skillful sailors.” Adversity has the effect of eliciting and stirring our talents that otherwise, in calm times, would have lain hidden.

When faced with adversity, Henry Ford used to say, “When everything seems to be going against you, remember that the airplane takes off against the wind, not with it.” My attitude of life has always been that if I am pushed to the very brink by adversity, I can count on being shown the creative way to proceed on the ground, or else be taught how to fly.

“The struggle of life is one of the greatest blessings,” insisted Helen Keller. “It makes us be patient, sensitive, and Godlike. It teaches us that although the world is full of suffering, it is also full of the overcoming of it.” I believe that overcoming is accomplished through the generous gift of wisdom and creative thought that is made available to us. If we will cultivate that gift and encourage those creative ideas, then our lives will be characterized by design, order, and accomplishment. Creative thinking is a powerful asset.