Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Allah to Ole

Came across this beautiful presentation today on creative genius.

Elizabeth Gilbert talks about how artists of all sorts have this sudden flash of insight and inspiration when everything comes together and works in concert to produce a brilliant piece of work. She talks about the unpredictability of such flashes of brilliance and inspiration, and how this puts undue pressure on the creative artists.

Today we have this notion of someone "being" a genius. Elizabeth mentions that the Greeks didn't believe that genius was something intrinsic to a person, but was something that came from the outside. You were not a genius. You had genius with you for a short duration of time. Genius was something external to you, that visited you for a while.

This is a fairly odd way to look at things, but I can understand how this can take a lot of pressure off of the creative artists when they mentally separate that sudden flash of inspiration and brilliance from themselves. All of this should have neurological explanations, but its still interesting to see how previous civilizations coped with ways to deal with the unpredictability and magnificence of such flashes of insight.

Another interesting tidbit. She mentions how people in Northern Africa used to chant Allah, Allah, Allah when they saw a beautiful, almost transcendental, dance performance. They saw that performance not as a work of man, but as a manifestation of God. When the Moors invaded Spain, they took this tradition with them, and this chanting of Allah, Allah, Allah changed to Ole, Ole, Ole that is so synonymous with Spanish music today. Interesting.

Have fun watching the presentation.


  1. I think this flash of inspiration has something to do with the interaction of unconscious and conscious parts of mind. The unconscious mental processes lead to a thought, which enters the consciousness as an unexpected flash of brilliance.

  2. Truly great Video.

    Here is another interesting video, it is related to creativity in a way.


  3. @Awais

    Agreed. I remember reading an article titled "Mathematical invention" by Henri Poincare in which he argued for the same.


    Interesting information in the video. Nature is full of beautiful patterns and regularities. If interested, refer to the discussion between Dawkins and Weinberg I posted earlier for why the religious notion of God is a vacuous explanation for all this. They discuss it in the first part which is directly embedded in the post.

  4. I watched some parts of it. It was an interesting watch. As they were saying how can they know what God is what God is not? We have no means of knowing. It is only God who can tell us something. And he has given us his message through those who are the most honest and good Souls in their time..

    Verily in the heavens and the earth are signs for those who believe. And in the creation of yourselves, and the fact that animals are scattered (through the earth), are signs for those of assured faith. And in the alternation of night and day, and that fact that Allah sends down sustenance from the sky, and revives therewith the earth after its death, and in the change of the winds, are signs for those who are wise" Quran(45:3-5).

  5. What they were saying was that the notion of God doesn't explain anything. The notion of God begs the question of who created God. They also acknowledge that we are in a tragic position because we will never know everything there is to know and there will always be this question of "why? why this? who created this?" but that G-o-d doesn't shed any light into it. Its the same as saying that a flying horse created it. You can't say anything meaningful both ways. Its a matter of blind faith.

  6. 'Its a matter of blind faith' I couldn't help but disagree, consider these ideas:

    1 - Newtonian physics: 'energy cannot be created or destroyed'..(i.e. it has to come from something else and it only changes form)

    2 - The fact that we don't know how did God came into being doesn't doesn't necessarily negate the existence of God.

    3 - If there is an entity that is capable of starting/preprogramming/creating such a gigantic universe with such minuscule detail, how much of this entity's knowledge would fit into our human heads?

  7. Love this Ted talk, but unfortunately she is mistaken about the origin of the word Ole. I can't find the reference now, but I came across it on a myth busting site. It's actually related to the Spanish word Orale, not the arabic Allah. Though it does make for a good story, it's hard to see how the sounds Ahllah would be slip easily into the pronunciation Ohlay.