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Do You Fit the Extraordinarily Creative Person Composite?

David Brooks makes a compelling argument about why America's future will continue to be bright so long as we remain a creative melting pot.

It's easy, on days when former President Bush is defending decisions like the use of waterboarding and the war in Iraq to feel a bit, well, down about this whole business of being an American.

Thankfully, David Brooks has injected a dose of optimism into an otherwise dreary day.


The New York Times columnist writes about how the 21st century will be marked by innovation and creativity, quoting Howard Gardner, a professor of cognition an psychology at Harvard, who has compiled a "composite picture of the extraordinarily creative person":

She comes from a little place somewhat removed from the center of power and influence. As an adolescent, she feels herself outgrowing her own small circle. She moves to a metropolis and finds a group of people who share her passions and interests. She gets involved with a team to create something amazing. Then, at some point, she finds her own problem, which is related to and yet different from the problems that concern others in her group. She breaks off and struggles and finally emerges with some new thing. She brings it back to her circle. It is tested, refined and improved.

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Brooks goes on to write that creativity happens within networks, not sequestered away in some solitary room: "It happens when talented people get together, when idea systems and mentalities merge." He makes the case that America's future will continue to be bright so long as we remain a creative melting pot, whose thick and expansive networks allow innovative people to converge because of our superior universities, preservation of intellectual property, and sense of universality.

Meanwhile, two-thirds of Americans believe their nation is in a period of decline.

Do you remain optimistic? And do you consider yourself to be an extraordinarily creative person?

Photo (cc) via Flickr user ginnerobot.

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