Tag Archives: International Center for Studies in Creativity

Janus and the Big Tent

Janus is the Roman god with the two faces, one looking forward and one back (or: in opposition). In the 1970’s, psychiatrist Albert Rothenburg coined the term “Janusian Thinking” to describe the oppositional energies that are often present in creativity.

An image of Janus hangs on the wall outside the creative studies library at Buffalo State College. (It’s fitting that he hangs at the threshold, as Janus was also the god of doorways and passages…)

Head of Janus. Butler Library, Buffalo State College

Head of Janus. Butler Library, Buffalo State College

I just returned from my first two weeks as a student at the International Center for Studies in Creativity at Buffalo State. I learned many wonderful things, among which was this concept of Janusian Thinking. I’m holding onto it, in fact, because in order to embark on this education (which will lead to a Master of Science degree), I’ve needed to expose my personal understanding of how creativity has manifested in my life (from the artistic point of view), to challenges and probably also to changes. A dear friend, upon hearing my intention to begin the program, asked: “Aren’t you afraid it will destroy the magic?”

Yeah, sometimes I have been.

But my first two weeks in the program showed me something else that I find just as important as theories of contradiction and paradox: diversity. My cohort is made up of professionals in painting, photography, food science, consulting, communications, academia, government, etc. As we came to know each other over the course of the two weeks, it became abundantly clear that “creativity” is a Big Tent kind of place. There’s lots of room here—for the science, and the art.

As I think about it now, perhaps the role of Janus as presider-over of doorways (hence, beginnings) is just as significant to creativity as his role of embodying paradox. Perhaps it’s in developing comfort with polarities (art/science; inspiration/measurement; sensing/thinking, etc, etc) that we really come to appreciate being lifted over the threshold, and into the tent.

Buffalo Bound: The Creativity Quest

Recently I’ve become aware of the many ways that people respond to the question of “creativity.”

For some, it ‘s a fluffy,vague, floaty immateriality—the stuff of bohemia.

For others it bespeaks their own artistic expressions–expressed, or stifled.

Others see creativity (as was described in a newsletter from Innovation Tools which I received today) as “a poor stepchild to innovation.”

And there are other points of view which, I suspect, see both innovation and creativity as primarily value-adding strategies, falling short of also appreciating them as essential components of an engaged, curious, and generative orientation to life.

All of these impressions—and more, I’m sure—are about to be thrown into the hopper for me, as I begin my Master’s studies at the International Center for Studies in Creativity at the University of Buffalo next week.

I enrolled in the program with the aim of enriching what I offer through Stages of Presence. Some people, I have found, can easily grasp the idea of bringing artistic competencies into the workplace. For others, it feels like an indulgence, or something too loosy-goosy for these serious times.

But in one sense, it all really comes down to creativity. And I do think most people, given time to explore what creativity means to them in their lives, can associate that value with the work that they do.

The creative spirit finds its way into our lives in many diverse ways. From artistic applications, to measurable outcomes, by broadening our understanding of what “creativity” means, we invite ourselves to experience it both with more variety and more depth.

I’m looking forward to reporting what this new broadening at Buffalo will bring.