Will Burns

Unleash Creativity Blog

Scientific studies that help us unleash our most human attribute: creativity.

The Universe Loves To Play, So Play

Photo by  Benjamin Davies  on  Unsplash

One thing I love to do is explore the paranormal. Ever since I was a kid I've been interested in the possibility of UFOs, life after death and psychic phenomena. As I've gotten older I've found a second application for such topics, and that is to reframe how I think about reality, give me a new perspective from which to see old problems and in the process maybe increase my own creativity.

Well, this morning I was on my daily walk (as walking increases creativity by a whopping 60%) and I was listening to Jim Harold's The Paranormal Podcast. His most recent episode was fascinating to me on many levels. It was entitled, "Talking Weird With John E.L. Tenney."

One thing Tenney said in the interview hit me right between the eyes. He was talking broadly about the nature of unexplained phenomena and said this:

"I look at our seemingly shared reality as kind of like a game. Like there's this galactic or cosmic or universal game that's being played. And the universe loves to play. And all it really wants anyone to do is play back."

Isn't that fantastic? 

I love this quote because, yes, it's an interesting explanation for paranormal phenomena, but I love it more as potential insight into the "mysteries" of creativity. What if we thought about creativity as a game we play with the universe? 

Creativity happens out there, not behind a desk.

I say that all the time because it's true. Creative moments don't tend to happen when sitting at a desk in the office. They happen while we are interacting with the world and hit us when we least expect them. Maybe that's why we call it a "Eureka" moment and not a "Yeah I was expecting that" moment.

Well, what is "out there" but the universe? Perhaps by taking on a creative assignment we have made the first move in the game. In essence, telling the universe it's "your turn" and setting into motion a next move from the universe.

You could argue that the universe reached me through Jim Harold's podcast and now it's reaching you through this blog post.

This game could be wildly fun with the goal of creation at the basis of it.

The key is paying attention.

Another truth about creativity that packages nicely with Tenney's quote is that noticing seemingly irrelevant things is important for new ideas to form.

What is creativity if not the collision of two seemingly disconnected thoughts (see Steven Johnson's book "Where Good Ideas Come From" for more on that)?

But the more we focus, the more our minds naturally eliminate anything it thinks is irrelevant and misses creative opportunities. Focusing is the enemy of creativity.

It's why people with ADHD tend to be more creative. They have a hard time focusing on what's in front of them and are easily distracted by all this "irrelevant" information. Not great for retaining social studies lessons in school, but awesome for being open to the universe's next move.

Now, if creativity is really a game we play with the universe, then you gotta pay attention or you'll miss its next move. It might be right in front of you in the form of a coincidence (Tenney talks about coincidence as a form of communication from the universe), a chance encounter or other half-buried inspiration just waiting for you to walk by.

Because if you don't notice, the universe might just think you're not playing.

So play.