WHY KNOWLEDGE TRIUMPHS OVER CREATIVITY

Monday, January 23, 2017


On the first or second day of my AP Literature class, my teacher split the room in half and presented a series of two-choice dilemmas. They weren’t about push-button topics, really; the activity was more to get our summer-frozen brain juices flowing than anything. The first couple of dilemmas were pretty simple (see: mountains vs beaches), but the further we got into the activity, the more intriguing it became. Eventually, my teacher presented the dilemma that would stick in my mind, even after all these months.

“Which is more valuable?” she asked. “Knowledge, or creativity?”

I pondered the question for quite a bit more time than I had previous dilemmas. If you’ve read a couple of my other posts, you’ll probably have stumbled upon one of my “creative theory” posts, where I talk about creativity and how it affects different aspects of life. I’m passionate about creativity, and the concept of creativity itself, not just the act of creating. It’s something I love to think about (which is REALLY weird, but I’m not kidding when I say that I do it in my spare time). So initially, I was tempted to choose creativity.

But then I thought about the question more. Which is more valuable?

I chose knowledge.

Here’s why:

I believe knowledge and creativity are linked together, in almost the sense that you can’t have one without the other. I say almost because I think that once you untangle the knots and the loose ends and the straighten the whole idea out, knowledge will come out on top. I believe that knowledge precedes creativity, and, therefore, creativity has at least part of its basis in knowledge. Without knowledge, you can’t have creativity; thus, knowledge is more valuable than creativity.

For example, if Jane Austen 1) hadn’t known how to write, and 2) hadn’t known the social conventions of mid-nineteenth-century England, she wouldn’t have been able to write Pride and Prejudice--or any of her other novels, for that matter. She certainly had to possess an inherently creative element in order to craft those stories, but if she hadn’t had knowledge/expertise in her given field, she wouldn’t have had the opportunity to even think about writing her stories. What’s the point of being creative if one has no material with which to create?

And knowledge is more logically valuable, not only in light of creativity, but in life. If there were only two people on the earth, and one of them had to die in order for the earth to sustain itself, would you choose the mathematician-astrophysicist-doctor-philosopher who knew CPR, or the world-renowned artist whose work was featured in galleries in the (now-empty) Louvre? If you had to choose between burning down a library or an art gallery, which would you choose to save?

The doctor, and the library. Obviously. Because knowledge saves lives, knowledge enables people to both survive and thrive, and knowledge, in a practical sense, is more valuable. If I’m completely honest, if I was halfway decent at math and science, I’d probably aim to become a doctor or scientist of some sort. It just makes more sense: save lives, help people, etc. My ties to humanity run much, much deeper than my ties to creativity do.

But thank God we have the luxury of having more than two people on the planet. Thank God we have people who are innovators, scientifically and artistically and technologically. Thank God our brains work in different ways; thank God for diversity; thank God that the world has need of people like me. Because, no matter how valuable knowledge might seem on paper, a world devoid of creativity is a world lacking much. A world devoid of creativity is a world lacking art, and music, and fictional storytelling, and fashion, and, to sum it all up, culture--culture everywhere, from Korea to Finland to Nigeria to New Zealand.

And, in a sense, the fact that knowledge is essential to human life also makes creativity essential. Creativity both complements and contrasts knowledge; it feeds off it and adds to it, takes input and makes output, uses it and challenges it. With creativity, people can make the mountains knowledge says are impossible to make--but without the knowledge of mountains themselves, people cannot create them. It’s a crazy paradox of exchanges, and it’s one that fascinates me to absolutely no end.

[Can we just pause here and say that I’m a ginormous nerd? And can we also pause here and say that THIS IS KIND OF FREAKING COOL? It’s a freaking PARADOX, for heaven’s sake!!! IT’S A PARADOX!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! IT DOESN’T MAKE SENSE, BUT IT DOES!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I’M ACTUALLY REALLY EXCITED RIGHT NOW. SKIP OVER THIS BIT IF YOU’D LIKE. BUT LIKE WHAT IS LIFE!!!!!!!????????!!!!!!!!!??????]

Back in Lit, I hadn’t thought of everything that I’ve just written here, but I knew my answer, and I knew why I believed it was so. We were given the opportunity to volunteer the rationale behind our decisions; so, after a couple of people spoke up for both sides, I stated my reasoning: “You have to know what the box is in order to break it.”

And this is true. If you’re trapped inside of a box, you have to know 1) that you’re inside the box, 2) the limitations and weaknesses of the box, 3) how that box inhibits/prevents you from doing what you want to do, and 4) that you want to break out of it at all. It’s cliche, but knowledge really is power: it’s the power that allows people to not only know the facts, but use them in order to innovate, create, and transform.

Do you agree? Do you believe that knowledge is more valuable than creativity? GIVE ME ALL THE OPINIONS BELOW! I’m ready for an intense discussion!

11 comments

  1. Whoa. I basically have no words. These are really good thoughts.

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  2. I've never thought about this before, but I agree with you, Rachel. Knowledge and creativity are intrinsically connected, with each other and with God, Who is the origination of both. I think that both are necessary, both are part of this world, and, in some ways, you can't fully separate them. But, like you said, you have to know there's a box before you can break it. Good thoughts, Rachel!

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    1. thank you, other Rachelle! (haha) i just think it's cool that it's all linked together like it is.

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  3. I'll tentatively disagree, because I don't believe the dichotomy between knowledge and creativity exists. I believe what we commonly call "knowledge" is the thought process that adds new information to what we know, whereas "creativity" refers to the thought process that makes connections and relates previous bits of information to each other differently. Thus, it is impossible to have one without the other. One cannot understand and remember new information (thus gaining knowledge) without relating it to previously known information (thus exercising creativity). Conversely, one cannot make connections between existing information (thus exercising creativity) without having pieces of information to connect! (thus exercising knowledge). So instead of a dichotomy between the two, I like to view them as complementary tools that are interdependent.

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    1. that's an interesting way to think of things! i still stand by my post, but your logic does make sense.

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  4. THIS IS SUCH AN INTERESTING DISCUSSION!!!!!!! I have to say I agree with you though

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    1. it's kinda weird, isn't it? but it's also kinda cool. very trippy. thanks for reading!

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  5. RACHEL YOU ARE BLOWING MY MIND.

    wowowowowowow I love this so much. I truly do believe that knowledge and creativity go hand in hand, but I've never seen it expressed so well before. Thank God that the world needs both.

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  6. THIS IS CRAAAZY!

    However-

    I don't know if I agree. Then again, I don't know if I disagree either. This topic is a little to heavy for my head ._. xD

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