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Interpersonal Creativity

To get a Ph.D. from Cambridge, I'm told, you need to make a "significant contribution to learning." (1) I'm glad somebody takes education seriously.

When people met Paul for the first time, they often came away saying, "I'm glad somebody takes gay people seriously," or, "I'm glad somebody takes creativity seriously."

We know why gay people aren't taken seriously: they retain the adolescent spirit that conventional adults allow to die when they sink into a depressive lifestyle. But why did Paul think that creativity was so important?

Whenever Paul thought about any human capability, he tried to conceptualize it in its highest, most valuable or meaningful, form. When he talked about love, for example, he wasn't talking about loving fried chicken or baby ducks. And when he talked about power, he meant the kind of empowerment that all men and women of good will aspire to in order to create a better world for everyone. In fact, that's exactly what creativity meant for Paul: a contribution to the creation of a better world. Anything less, for him, was a form of entertainment.

This idea is a little hard for some people to take. How can you call Brahms' symphonies "mere entertainment." But Paul wasn't trying to belittle this kind of creativity by calling it "two-dimensional". He was simply reminding us that nothing substitutes for the kind of roll-up-your-sleeves work that needs to be done on a one-to-one basis to create the social ideas and social skills that make living a decent and satisfying experience. He was saying we might still have a wonderful world if Brahms had never lived, but not if we didn't have knowledge about one another and the ability to treat one another justly.

When asked about Western Civilization, Gandhi said, "It would be a good idea." I would say that Paul has written a blueprint for the creation of the better world that Gandhi, Jesus, Moses, Mohammed, the Buddha and many others have asked us to believe we are capable of.

The theme of human creativity runs throughout his work and, for Paul, is always interpersonal. You might want to start learning more about what Paul said, however, by checking out his second book:

Love and Power: The Psychology of Interpersonal Creativity [1966]

(1) Their exact words are "Before recommending the award of a Ph.D. Degree, the Examiners shall satisfy themselves that the dissertation is clearly written, that it takes due account of previously published work on the subject, and that it represents a significant contribution to learning, for example through the discovery of new knowledge, the connection of previously unrelated facts, the development of new theory, or the revision of older views." This high standard has infected more than one Cambridge Ph.D. awardee. As Steven Hawking put it, "It was my most ecstatic moment -- the realization as I was getting into bed one night that the boundary of a black hole can never decrease in area. There's nothing to match the thrill of having everything fall in place and making a new contribution to human knowledge."


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