Einstein, Lao Tsu, William Blake, Imagination, Intuition, Innocence, Children, and Art


In my opinion, people create their best art when they are about 4-years-old. After that, they begin looking around and trying to copy what someone, who they think is a better artist, has done.


Pablo Picasso said:  “Every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist once we grow up.”

I agree with Picasso’s famous words, and I believe that several things factor into the fact that we become less imaginative, as we grow up.

In another post, I discuss the problems that arise when we care too much about the opinions of others: http://jackikellum.com/the-old-red-hen-jacki-kellum-watercolor-painting-with-words-and-watercolor/

During the harrowing experiences of maturing, adults begin to doubt the choices that their intuitions seem to be making. Gradually, they become more other-oriented than internally guided. This is often caused when we regard the expectations of others more than we regard our own feelings. Shakti Gawain says that our cultures also increase our self doubts. She adds: “Our culture conditions us to believe that we must always be doing something outwardly productive. [Not many people feel that creating a painting is outwardly productive.] … We have lost the value of being–taking time to rest, relax, contemplate, explore the inner realm, and generally replenish ourselves. We are terribly out of balance in this respect.” -Shakti Gawain, Develop Your Intuition, p. 87

The damaged adult versus the innocent child was the theme of Romantic writer William Blake. Other Romanticists also wrote in support of the innocent child; but William Blake’s writing is obsessive. Blake ultimately described a new religion based on the state of innocence and its untainted imagination. He pleaded with mankind to return to the religion of innocence and his literary character Los [who was the embodiment of imagination] was the Christ-like figure who would lead his followers back into the fold of innocence.

Blake and the Romanticists were not the first to expose the trappings of adulthood. Ancient philosopher Lao Tsu also developed the theme, as he depicted the results of a life that is not centered upon the pure, the inner being, or as William Blake called it, innocence For instance, formal education is a product of our cultures. Lao Tsu warned against cultural demands, calling these demands the Rules of Propriety:

“The rules of propriety are the semblance of loyalty and faith, And the beginning of disorder. Traditionalism is the flower of Reason, But the beginning of ignorance. Therefore great organizers abide by the solid, And do not dwell in the external. They abide in the fruit, and do not dwell in the flower.” Chapter 38

“One who knows others is clever, but one who knows himself is enlightened. One who conquers others is powerful, but one who conquers himself is mighty.” Chapter 33

The wise are not learned; the learned are not wise.” Chapter 81 Tao Te Ching

In other words, traditional teaching seeks products, externalized behavior which suggests that learning has taken place. Education is not from within–it is not the essence.

The externalized rules of education are much the sames as the rules that men apply to spirituality. Religions are born out of rules. Spirituality is an internal source–not a man-made framework for that source. Wisdom is the source of knowledge; education is a man-made framework. Many philosophers have criticized what education has done to the process of learning.

When we begin to rely more upon these external rules–the outward expectations for us–we begin to mute the voice of the intuition. The life product that William Blake called Experience; and that Lao Tsu called the Rules of Propriety; Albert Einstein called “Common Sense.” The following Albert Einstein quotes are very appropriate to this discussion:

“Common sense is the collection of prejudices acquired by age 18.” – Albert Einstein

The “common sense” and the “rules of propriety” educate–rather than inspire:

“Education is what remains after one has forgotten what one has learned in school.” – Albert Einstein

“If you want your children to be intelligent, read them fairy tales. If you want them to be more intelligent, read them more fairy tales.” – Albert Einstein

“Logic will get you from A to Z; imagination will get you everywhere.” – Albert Einstein

“Not everything that can be counted counts, and not everything that counts can be counted.” – Einstein

“Try not to become a man of success. Rather become a man of value.”

“I am enough of an artist to draw freely upon my imagination. Imagination is more important than knowledge. Knowledge is limited. Imagination encircles the world.” – Albert Einstein

“You can’t depend on your eyes when your imagination is out of focus.” – Mark Twain


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