other books I’ve seen on creativity and its place in society have been by
American authors and not nearly as good.
……..Hilary McPhee — former Vice Chancellor’s Fellow of Melbourne University.
Congratulations on the wonderful work that you have been doing.
……..Professor David Biles OAM, consultant criminologist
About the Author
Dulcie May Stone, born Dulcie May
White in Melbourne 1924, has won acclaim as an author, educator and campaigner
for people with disabilities. She has been awarded an MBE for service to the
handicapped (1981), was selected International Woman of the Year in 1996/97, was
included in the Outstanding People of the Twentieth Century Selection and, with
her late husband, received an Apostolic Blessing in 1989.
Dulcie has previously published the
Tools of War. Zeus Publications. 2007.
Poseidon Books (an imprint of Zeus Publications). 2007.
Fay. The Australian
Institute on Intellectual Disability, Canberra. 2006.
Spectrum Publications. 2003
Ask Me about Saturdays.
SMARTBOARD Internet Publisher. 1997.
Ask Me about Saturdays.
SpringDale Publications. 1993.
Hullo Fay. Self
Spectrum Publications. 1982.
I Laugh I Cry I Feel.
Spectrum Publications. 1978.
the International Year of the Disabled selection, Bologna Book Fair, 1981.
Autumn Music. Zeus
Switching on the Light.
Spectrum Publications. 2002.
Becoming a Writer.
Stone & Associates Publication. 1996.
Parent Power ’94.
SpringDale Publications. 1994.
What’s Volunteering & What’s
Not? SpringDale Publications. 1993.
Towards the New Dream.
SpringDale Publications. 1993.
For Adults Only? Upper
Yarra Community House. 1990.
Principles of Voluntarism.
Community Service Victoria Publication. 1988.
Teaching with the
Retarded. Spectrum Publications. 1979.
Parent Power. Mildura
and District Educational Council Publication. 1971.
An editorial committee member of
‘Interaction’, the Australian Institute on Intellectual Disability quarterly
journal, Dulcie retired from teaching in 2006. She enjoys a busy family life
with her four children, twelve grandchildren and ten great-grandchildren.
Aspects of Creativity
follows the 2002
publication Switching on the Light (promoting emotional maturity).
The 2002 title was based on the words of primary school teacher Sean Kennedy,
who said: ‘When a child starts to feel good about themselves, you can see it.
It’s like a light is suddenly switched on.’
Written for educationists, parents,
social workers and all adults who work with children, and endorsed by the
Catholic Education Office, Switching on the Light is the account of the
personal experiences which led to my appreciation of the powerful influence of
creativity; personal experiences which also witnessed disturbing demonstrations
of evil at work.
Feedback from readers has been
encouraging and inspirational.
(Addenda 1) Excerpt from a letter:
Your remarkable book is a work of
major importance … The only other books I’ve seen on creativity and its place in
society have been by American authors and not nearly as good.
Hilary McPhee, Vice Chancellor’s
November 11 2002
from an email:
We are investigating a community
cultural developmental model, engaging professional community artists (as
opposed to therapeutic models) in cross disciplinary research between
Criminology, Creative Arts and Education. I can see that you have been a pioneer
in this area for some time. Alas it is a long hard battle we have to convince
the bureaucrats of what we know.
Department of Criminology
University of Melbourne
February 27 2003
These, and others like them,
switched on a personal light which asked new questions:
Why confine my ideas to the
Why not more generally explore the
influence of positive and negative creativity? (Addenda 2)
Why not also explore the influence
of positive and negative creativity nationally and internationally,
contemporarily and historically?
And, because of my continuing alarm
at the escalating pragmatism and violence of today’s world, why not endeavour to
put my thoughts on paper?
Aspects of Creativity
is the outcome. Combining my multi-faceted personal experiences with relevant
it is an infinitesimal dip into a
broad, deep, limitless and sometimes terrifying ocean.
Its aim is essentially simple:
to provoke thought as to why comprehension of the fundamental nature of
creativity is universally critical.
The following two statements
provide valuable insight:
1. A report to the Division of
Cultural Development of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural
Organization (UNESCO) states:
‘Arts centers and arts programs are
dedicated to the idea that each person, no matter how handicapped, has a unique
vision, and that everyone should have the opportunity to express his or her
individuality and creativity through the art experience.’
Submitted by the International
League of Societies for the Mentally Handicapped 1980
2. An excerpt from A World
History of Art states:
‘The main thread of this work is to
be found in the close dialectical relationship between the free creativity of
the man-artist and his enduring toil to solve the concrete problems of
individual and social existence. Art is awarded a place in this historical
evolving, which equals and sometimes even anticipates any other human activity.’
Gina Pischel. Gild Publishing.
BUT – creativity is not confined to
state or quality of being creative, ability to create.
to bring into being or form out of nothing:
to bring into being
by force of imagination:
to make, produce, or form
to invest with a new form,
office, or character
to be the first to
act (a part); to make a fuss.
(Definitions from Chambers
Twentieth Century Dictionary)
‘creativity’ defined as having the quality of virtue. If creativity is not
necessarily virtuous, could it also be its opposite?
creators make not only ‘good’, but ‘bad’? Could creativity be not only positive,
but also negative?
Common usage is enlightening
(A) Examples of common usage
expressions of positive creativity:
The audience at a fashion parade
applauds, ‘How uniquely creative!’
The viewers at an art exhibition
admire, ‘So creative! So gifted!’
The judge of a dance competition,
‘I’m looking for creativity.’
The football commentator, ‘He’s
such a creative player.’ (Positive, of course!)
(B) Examples of common usage
expressions of negative creativity:
The exhausted nurse trying to cope
with a fractious patient complains, ‘The old girl’s creating again.’
The struggling antique dealer
groans, ‘I’ve made a loss.’
The villain in a TV melodrama,
ordering an assassination, says, ‘Be creative! Think of something!’
‘Knife attacks create fear on
(Headline The Age 17
Now consider two more word
belief in nothing, extreme scepticism, nothingness.
to put out of existence.
to crush or
wither by look or word.
(Chambers Twentieth Century
Nihilism and annihilation are in
all our lives. They are evident in the racists and the bigots. In the cynics who
deliberately belittle, ridicule, and corrode. In those who crush and divide by
word and look and manipulation; in the destroyers who continue to create new
ways to destroy; in the bullies who continue to create new ways to bully.
Nihilism and annihilation are
evident in premeditated murder. Their ultimate is mass murder and genocide.
What have nihilism and annihilation
to do with the ‘creativity’ which, despite the meaning implicit in the common
usage examples of negative creativity, is generally pictured as intrinsically
Chambers Dictionary has more. In
defining nihilism it adds:
In Tsarist Russia a terrorist
movement aimed at the overturn of all the existing institutions of society
in order to build up anew on different principles.
In this bright new twenty-first
millennium, for which there was so much initial hope, the dictionary’s addition
has a shockingly familiar ring.
Planned total destruction of
existing institutions of society in order to build anew on different principles.
There’s a potent new millennium
example (one among too many): The Three Gorges Dam on the Yangtze River, China.
Proposed in 1919 by Sun Yat-Sen, construction began in 1997 and is to be
completed in 2009. A critical source of hydropower, and planned to provide power
to the equivalent of a third of China’s homes, the Three Gorges Dam is a
dramatic symbol of China’s economic power.
In order to construct the Three
Gorges Dam more than a million people had to be relocated; entire counties,
towns and villages were annihilated.
With the goal of creating a clean
environment, which can be achieved by switching off a significant number of
coal-fired power stations, in 2008 environmentalists are reporting major water
pollution, associated earthquake activity, as well as loss of fish and rare
Interviewed on Foreign
Correspondent, ABC TV on 20 May 2008, a dam engineer reports: ‘We have to
balance negative and positive aspects of the creation of the dam.’
The account of the dilemma of the
creators of the Three Gorges Dam spectacularly illustrates the dramatic
complexities of ‘man’s enduring toil to solve the concrete problems of
social existence’ in a broad community context.
To illustrate ‘man’s enduring toil
to solve the problems of individual existence’ there’s a personal
Seventy-seven kilometres east of
Melbourne, in the Dandenong Ranges region, is the small country town of
Warburton. Originally occupied by the Woiworung Aborigines, and becoming one of
the noted Victorian gold rush towns, it is now deservedly acclaimed as a very
beautiful place in which to relax and to escape from pressure.
In 1990, as coordinator of the
Upper Yarra Neighbourhood House Adult Literacy Program, I was one of the workers
associated with Warburton’s inaugural BookFest. The following article resulted:
(First published in the Victorian
Rural Women’s Network magazine 1990)
(Perhaps the best testament to its
success was the fact that children at the painting tables, when their parents
came to collect them a bit too soon, insisted on taking with them the books they
were producing to finish at home. Rosemary Nissen – Upper Yarra Mail)
The theme of the third Warburton
Bookfest, chosen in recognition of International Literacy Year, was Literacy
This was demonstrated in a colourful
art display by adult literacy students, together with an exhibition of
wonderfully imaginative reading posters entered in the competition for school
children. We wondered, as the parents collected the children from the painting,
writing, drawing corner: What do you think it’s all about?
Was the Creativity Corner a device
to occupy children while parents indulged in the serious business of inspecting
the variety of books available? Or did it, of itself, have a distinct purpose?
The Creativity Corner, and its
success, epitomised what we believe the International Literacy Year should be
about. Creativity breaks through the walls of self doubt which too frequently
accompany limited literacy skills in adults, and an ounce of prevention is worth
a ton of cure.
The Upper Yarra Adult Literacy
Program provides, in addition to a one-to-one literacy program, a creativity
program which encourages self expression through the arts in a relaxed,
accepting, stimulating and positive environment.
This atmosphere, which actively
combats the entrenched fear of failure, serves as a spring-board from which the
tutors are enabled to more quickly and happily assist the students to break
through their walls of self doubt, low self esteem, and unworthiness.
Simply stated, in literacy and
numeracy there is almost always a correct answer.
2 + 2 = 4 is correct and 2 + 2 = 5
is incorrect. House is spelt correctly. Huse is spelt incorrectly.
A set of outside rules has to be
However, in self expression
(creativity), only the individual expressing self has to be satisfied.
Creativity, in this respect, removes fear of failure. So why the Children’s
Because we believe: an ounce of
The parents who became aware of our
purpose were delighted. The children, by making their own books and posters,
were combining creativity, literacy, and sometimes numeracy. They were using
their imaginations, expressing themselves in a relaxed, accepting, stimulating,
and positive environment where caring people praised their work and encouraged
freedom of expression without criticism. Not for these kids the self-doubts, the
fear of failure, the low self-esteem that plagues so many adults who desperately
come through our doors looking for help.
Our contention is that schools
should more actively encourage and promote this link of the creative and the
academic. Many do. But, as we realised during the Bookfest, the net should be
spread more widely. Most parents, if they only realised it, would welcome the
opportunity to smooth their offspring’s path through the academic jungle.
Encouragement of self-expression – through art, music, writing. drama, dancing
etc – is possible for all parents.
It seems to us that readers of
NETWORK would be especially receptive to this idea. The following lists are from
the Nature of Creativity:
Expression Negative Self Expression
decisions Illegal graffiti
activities Self mutilation
recreation Disruptive behaviour
Safe channels for expressions
frustration expressions of grief, anger,
Dulcie Stone 1990
The lists were
later expanded to:
Creativity Negative Creativity
Art Illegal graffiti
Music Disruptive behaviour
writing Self mutilation
Dance Petty crime (e.g. shop
expressions of grief, anger etc. Destructive expressions of
grief, anger etc.
both positive and negative, happens as the result of choice. Whether conscious
or subconscious, creativity results from a choice to ‘bring into being’, ‘to
make’. Whether positive or negative, creativity results from a wide range of
emotions and motivations.
creativity resulting from pragmatic motivation may be the choice of ruthless
persons or regimes.
to construct the Three Gorges Dam
to persecute the Jewish race
to use the atomic bomb to annihilate Hiroshima
there is the coldly calculated choice to be negatively creative.
creativity resulting from a limitless range of emotions may be the choice of
individuals or groups.
Premeditated choice made by an abused spouse to kill the abuser.
Premeditated choice made by a lone teenager to commit mass murder on his college
Premeditated choice made by the suicide bombers of 9/11 and Bali.
there is the coldly calculated choice to be negatively creative.
Age on 2 August 2008, Professor Germaine Greer stated: ‘Rage has nothing to
do with creativity.’(3)
examples already given would argue otherwise. So what kind of ‘rage’ is she
there’s a question. What is the precise definition of rage? Consult the
dictionaries. It’s unclear. Take your pick. Definitions range from madness
through anger to furious activity to ardour to current vogue.
medical encyclopaedia. It’s a fact that manslaughter, murder, extreme violence
and acts of blind ‘rage’ may result from physical brain disorders in which there
is no choice; that is, no choice to bring into being, no choice to act – no
indisputable brain disorder which gives its victim no choice is psychomotor
(temporal lobe) epilepsy. Violent actions which are the product of an episode of
psychomotor epilepsy, or other such clinically proven physical brain disorders,
contain no element of creativity.
confusing. Murder and mayhem and violence are sometimes acts of negative
creativity and sometimes not.
As in the two following cases, all cases are factual. However, names initially
placed within quotation marks are fictional names given to actual people.
was a charmer, generally good natured and easy going. As the result of a
childhood fall, Charlie suffered from psychomotor epilepsy. It caused him to fly
into terrifying ‘rages’, when he committed acts of extreme violence against
others, and sometimes on himself. As he grew older and bigger, his medication
had to be regularly adjusted. Sometimes belated adjustment resulted in shocking
consequences. He nearly killed his best friend. He broke his own hand punching a
brick wall. Charlie was the victim of his physically traumatised brain.
Absolutely no choice was involved.
Pears Medical Encyclopedia: ‘One form of epilepsy which is of medico-legal
importance is the attack which takes the form of extreme violence while the
patient is in an altered state of consciousness.; this is known as an epileptic
equivalent or automatism and may take the place of a fit or follow on, so that
the individual may carry out murderous attacks which are quite pointless without
knowing what he is doing. Fortunately, however, these are not very common.’
his early teens, was a former mainstream school student. Fortunately, experience
with Charlie preceded our meeting. Small and wiry and suffering wounded
self-esteem as a result of incessant teasing and bigotry, Ted also frequently
flew into abusive rages and lashed out at anyone unfortunate enough to be in his
line of sight. It took very little to set him off. An imagined insult, a petty
misunderstanding. Unacceptable, but understandable. Hopefully reversible.
memorable day Ted tipped over the edge and viciously, irrationally, attacked a
group of his close friends. Empathy, intuition, experience – something triggered
my alarm bells. As a result, his family consulted a leading neurologist. Ted,
who was suffering from the psychological trauma caused by his experiences
with teasing and bigotry, was diagnosed as also suffering from the physical
trauma of psychomotor epilepsy.
In this one
small body were two totally unrelated causes of violence. One required choice,
the other imposed no choice. One was caused by the emotion of passionate rage
which, if not adequately controlled by learning to choose self-discipline, would
result in ongoing acts of violence. The other was caused by the physical but
passionless brain trauma which, if not adequately controlled by relevant
medication, would result in ongoing acts of extreme violence.
teenager’s unfortunate body, the negative creativity resulting from school yard
abuse was accompanied by the very rare affliction of committing acts of violence
because he was the victim of psychomotor epilepsy. The adults nurturing and
educating and medicating Ted would have to co-operate in a Ted-specific program
based on recognition of which ‘temper tantrum’ was which.
To take the
two types of violence within the one body to a stark what-if scenario:
kills in a fit of passion-inspired rage, he will be judged to be responsible for
his actions. He will therefore be tried, and assessed and sentenced,
Because committing violent action as an expression of passionate rage is, at
some level, a choice.
though, in the culminating act of criminal violence the brain may have been
flooded by ‘rage chemicals’, the preliminaries have been subject to choice; a
moment of choice which asked – ‘Do I find a way to master the rage, or do I let
the rage master me?’
kills while suffering an epileptic psychomotor episode, he will be judged to be
not responsible for his ‘automatic’ actions. He will be tried, and medicated
and managed, accordingly.
Because committing violent action as the direct result of clinically
demonstrable brain damage does not involve choice. The form of epilepsy in which
pointless violence is committed in an altered state of consciousness,
automatism, gives the patient no choice.
there is a good-news ending. Fortunately, both effective medication and the
opportunity to learn to emotionally grow towards mastery of self-discipline
fused into a happy outcome. Ted is now a well-adjusted adult, respected in his
family and community, and in mainstream employment.
psychomotor episode which led to Ted’s diagnosis the first?
condition due to birth trauma?
brain damage resulting from an early childhood accident?
had the emotionally unstable Ted actually killed one of his friends in that
first verifiable psychomotor episode, who would have wanted to be on that jury?