Thursday 29 March 2012

The Lump of Meat

The human brain is amazing.

Look at a picture of a young Charlie Chaplin, he really was that young once. That young boy grew up to invent 'The Tramp', create lasting comedic masterpieces, and change the history of cinema.

He was like the rest of us --- a body walking around with a lump of meat encased in his skull.

We romanticize greatness. Even that TED talk by Elizabeth Gilbert is enticing, where she talks about catching an idea from the ether as it passes you by. She thought the problem with creatives and depression/suicide is that they place too much emphasis on genius being personal.

I agree, partially. We all start out thinking we'll be exceptional and discovered immediately for our brilliance. It doesn't work like that and it takes years to understand it.

I'm happy to get rid of the concept of genius and also the idea of catching ideas from the ether -- at least in any spiritual sense.

The ideas ARE out there. When you meet new people and see new places, your brain fires up, you create new neural pathways. Creativity occurs in all humans but it happens differently in artists. Or at least, the end result is different.

The more you create, the better you get. Especially when you make mistakes. We only really learn when we humiliate ourselves by trying projects a little too complex for our current skills.

Those skills improve. You become hardwired for creativity and output. Every project you complete makes it more likely you'll complete the next one. We're habitual creatures.

But the fact remains: It's just a lump of meat in our heads. When we're dead, it does nothing, it's just like anything else. Can we be as great as Chaplin, or Lionel Messi, or Einstein? Probably not. But let's not think of them as geniuses. Let's think of them as talented people who concentrated on their work. Work they had an aptitude for.

There are so many variables to creativity. Most perplexing is the social aspect. Society asks not "were you creative?", but "did you make money?" -- that mindbender is enough to give most artists a breakdown every time a well meaning friend or family member asks "how is it going?"

To realize the brain is just a grey lump of flesh is freeing. It does what you instruct it to do. It does what you focus on. It creates based on what you're thinking and feeling and experiencing.

You want to do your best creative work? Then make sure you're creating with every chance you get, and tempering it with enough time for rest, socialising and being spontaneous.

You are as capable as anyone else. You're nothing special, just a lump of grey matter encased in a skull.

Actually, that IS pretty special-- you're a piece of meat in a skull and the neurons are firing, but a hundred years from now, they won't be. Let's get creative and leave our imprint while we can.

Care to share?


  1. That lump of meat is capable of some amazing feats.

  2. It is not meat, it is fat. The brain is fat. Meat are muscles.

    Personally, I think the brain and the soul are two different things and they live in symbiosis. I think your ability to let the soul lead the way and not the brain, can let you do great things.

    If the brain leads the way, your reactions and thoughts will never be more than what the brain is capable of according to the trained up pattern.

    The soul however is capable of change, thinking outside the box, breaking free, come to new conclusions.

  3. Since you mention Chaplin, I'll take this opportunity to point out that I've got a Chaplin series going at my own blog. I'm posting reviews of all his feature films, one a day through next week. Come check it out.

  4. Hey Jason, I checked out your blog. Nice stuff. Will read a bit more of it soon.

    Desiree - okay then, the lump of fat in our heads! And I like your romantic view of the soul.

    1. :-)
      Perhaps you like it just as much as I dislike your idea of being only what the brain is.

      If you think my idea was pink roses and chocolate, yours were a quarry. ;-) Enjoy the chocolate instead.

  5. I loved this post because it was logical, encouraging and positive and a bit sassy at the same time. Thanks for your thoughts and amusing me!