What is Creativity?

I’m dividing day from day as I read through René Redzepi’s year-long A Work in Progress filled with epiphanies, fights, struggles, and successes at Noma.

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At the beginning of Genesis, Elohim divides light from dark, water from water as he speaks plants, fish, birds and humans into existence.  With a special thanks to Michelangelo.

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The bard at the beginning of the Iliad, calls upon the muse to inspire song, inspire the remembering, the putting-back-together of the war and warriors having long ago disappeared from the face of the earth, and maybe from memory.  It’s a type of creativity that poets, novelists, painters, and actors know well, the lived-metaphor of turning one thing into some thing else, rescuing what has been forgotten, and bringing it back into the light.

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It’s a joy to read as Redzepi gathers the world around him and transforms flora and fauna into Vintage Blue Carrots and Warm Sorrel Juice or Grilled Candied Endive and Wild Snails.  His journal entry for Saturday, July 16 contemplates his particular alchemy.

I believe what we’re cooking here and now at Noma is ultimately something that comes from within; reverberations from long ago, rather than a cerebral construction.  Looking back at the last six months, the best moments have happened when something in the present connects with stories from the past. “What is creativity?”  I’ve been asking myself while writing this journal.  I’m not sure, but tonight I will answer it like this: creativity is the ability to store the special moments, big or small, that occur throughout your life, then being able to see how they connect to the moment you’re in.  When past and present merge, something new happens.  (119)

Maybe something like the moment Marcel Proust found in Remembrance of Things Past.

Many years had elapsed during which nothing of Combray, save what was comprised in the theatre and the drama of my going to bed there, had any existence for me, when one day in winter, on my return home, my mother, seeing that I was cold, offered me some tea, a thing I did not ordinarily take. I declined at first, and then, for no particular reason, changed my mind. She sent for one of those squat, plump little cakes called “petites madeleines,” which look as though they had been moulded in the fluted valve of a scallop shell. And soon, mechanically, dispirited after a dreary day with the prospect of a depressing morrow, I raised to my lips a spoonful of the tea in which I had soaked a morsel of the cake. No sooner had the warm liquid mixed with the crumbs touched my palate than a shudder ran through me and I stopped, intent upon the extraordinary thing that was happening to me. An exquisite pleasure had invaded my senses, something isolated, detached, with no suggestion of its origin. And at once the vicissitudes of life had become indifferent to me, its disasters innocuous, its brevity illusory – this new sensation having had on me the effect which love has of filling me with a precious essence; or rather this essence was not in me it was me. I had ceased now to feel mediocre, contingent, mortal. Whence could it have come to me, this all-powerful joy? I sensed that it was connected with the taste of the tea and the cake, but that it infinitely transcended those savours, could, no, indeed, be of the same nature. Whence did it come? What did it mean? How could I seize and apprehend it?  [Translation by C.K. Scott Moncrieff and Terence Kilmartin]

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