What nature could teach us about creativity

2017-06-24--13.36.43As a human species, we originate from the savanna, the forests and close to the water. It is in these environments we evolved during the millennia to the creative beings we are today, who, for good and for bad, eventually took over the planet we share here with all other biological life.

Creativity, undoubtedly, gets a lot of its impulses from the contacts with other people; the unexpected meetings, the discussions and the new impulses, but at least for me, this has to be contrasted with impressions and experiences from forest and water.

It is in the silence of the forest that I can slow down and relax. The nature follows its own rhythm. It it is not being stressed or made to follow someone else’s schedule. The wood anemones are coming in the spring and the rowan tree berries mature in the late summer, whatever happens in the world around.

This peace and quiet provides time for thought and reflection. I grew up in Skåne in South Sweden, close to the sea but far from the forest, and I think I thus missed something important that I could only find as an adult.

We have as human beings a need to regularly land in silence, and to me there are few activities that beat a slow forest walk. It might possibly be a quiet evening at dawn, looking out over a lake and slowly see the sun set over the water, colouring the clouds above in hundreds of nuances, or a slow autumn walk along an empty beach, alone with the gulls, the stranded sea shells and with the salty wind in the nostrils.

When we are pondering upon a problem, seeking the solution that so far have escaped us, we must first leave it out of our consciousness and allow it to be incubated in the deeper associative parts of our brains. Then, without any warning, the insight will suddenly appear in our minds like a Eureka experience, without us having a clue how it actually happened.

This does not happen when we are busy at work, but instead in situations when we can disconnect from all disturbing and intruding thoughts and impressions.

Nature is the perfect place for this, and the Swedes’ love for nature is perhaps the explanation why year-by-year we make the top of the Global Innovation Index, second only to Switzerland with its wild mountain nature.

Nature is the unbeatable innovator. Millions of years of evolution have led to countless unique solutions and adaptations that provide a great source of inspiration for our own creative problem-solving.

The ability of the green leaf to convert sunlight into chemical energy through photosynthesis, adaptive mechanisms how to survive in the deep seas or at high altitudes or the array of pharmacologically active substances to be found in the flora of our rain forests, are just a few examples.

Nature is also a hard-to-beat source of artistic inspiration. A quiet forest walk is full of impressions; unique colours, shapes and patterns that constantly change in character, according to the time of day, the wind and the sunlight, just waiting to be picked up by a mindful observer.

Schubert’s Die Forelle is a flowing spring creek, transposed into music and August Strindberg’s archipelago paintings reflect the full power of the sea in all its outstanding wildness.

A year ago, we moved some miles out from Stockholm to a small farm at one of the islands of Lake Mälaren. With the lake in front of the house (the cover photo of this blog is taken from our bedroom window) and the forests and horse and sheep pastures behind it, we now have nature literally around the corner.

A female rawdeer and her two fawns live in the bushes by the house and appear in front of the house several times a day, and in the spring two big woodpeckers were competeing with some 20 species of smaller birds for the seeds at the bird feeder.

This environment has been an inspiration both for my own creative writing and my amateur photography.

Detta blogginlägg på svenska

Author: Karl Ekdahl

International public health leader and creativity blogger.

3 thoughts on “What nature could teach us about creativity”

  1. What a wonderful place to live in ! Surrounded by serenity. I have family who live in Örebro County , Västmanland. I grew up in Finland and although young when we moved to Australia, still remember the beauty of the countryside. Finding those lingonberries in spring that have hidden under winter snow is a memory that still lingers on my tongue.

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    1. Yes, I’m really blessed. This is our place for peace and contemplation. Although not everyone could find their spot just around the corner, I think it is important to take the opportunity to find “your own” spot in nature, even if it’s a park and you share it with many others. I don’t know where in Australia you live, but I’ve had many magic moments in your country that I will always carry with me.

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      1. I live in Adelaide, South Australia. The home of many a famous winery, Kangaroo Island just a hop, skip and a jump over the waves, and many other wonderful nooks and crannies to explore. We live in the ‘burbs but have created our own green paradise in our garden.

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