Unicorns and the art of creative perception

NANCY HATHAWAY (THE UNICORN) | THE FIRST ANIMAL NAMED

In mythology, language, and psychology, the act of naming or knowing a thing by its name represents a special kind of power:

Then God told Adam to name the animals. All the creatures gathered around: those that crawled and those that flew and those that swam in the rivers; creatures with four legs and creatures with two, those with bushy tails and those who could see in the dark. They were all equal, and Adam had always been one of them. Yet as he began to name them, he drew himself apart. And the first animal he named was the unicorn.

When the Lord heard the name Adam had spoken, he reached down and touched the tip of the single horn growing from the animal’s forehead. From that moment on, the unicorn was elevated above other beasts.

The story speaks to an understanding of how the act of naming things, particularly things that do not (physically) exist, is a defining feature of human beings. Something particularly interesting to consider here is the idea that the unicorn represents one of our greatest mistakes and our greatest gifts – the human capacity to inaccurately perceive something in the world, name it, and thereby make it “real.”

A solitary animal, the unicorn inhabits the distant edges of our mental geography….[A] beast that may never have existed in actuality but which lives in some bright corner of the human mind.

As described by Hathaway, the unicorn is something magical, unique, singular (!), which represents not only a concept but, in our metaphorical pursuits of the mystical beast, also points to the nature of conceptualization. The story of the unicorn carries within it the possibility that our creativity, our imagination, and, most profoundly, our capacity to be wrong are conceptual powers actualized through the use of language.


Reference

Nancy Hathaway (The Unicorn) | The First Animal Named


LEWIS CARROLL | THROUGH THE LOOKING GLASS

unicorn“Do you know, I always thought unicorns were fabulous monsters, too? I never saw one alive before!”

“Well, now that we have seen each other,” said the unicorn, “if you’ll believe in me, I’ll believe in you.”

 


Reference

Lewis Carroll | Through The Looking Glass


STEVEN KOTLER (PSYCHOLOGY TODAY) | CREATIVITY: THE SECRET BEHIND THE SECRET

Forget about thinking different, the real secret is perceiving different!…. At every step in the process of visual perception, the brain throws out pieces of information and assimilates the remaining ones into increasingly abstract components. Experience plays a major role in this process. The human brain sees things in ways that are most familiar to it. But epiphanies rarely occur in familiar surroundings. The key to seeing [creatively] is to look at things that you have never seen before.


Reference

Steven Kotler (Psychology Today) | Creativity: The Secret Behind the Secret

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