Saturday, October 31, 2009

On Creativity

The following e-mail exchange is one of my proudest accomplishments. On my last History of Creativity exam I lost four points on the take-home portion for not "illustrating" my booklet. In these e-mails, you will see me pleading and arguing like an idiot for those measly points. The miracle is, it worked.

Dear illustrious teaching assistants,

You are wise. You are just. You are creative.

It is because of these attributes that I come before you to plead my case. I pray that my words will have reason in your ears.

I had an exceptionally pleasant experience during the last exam, especially while completing the take-home portion. For my project, I designed and constructed a pamphlet for a fictional organization called the Society of Modern Gods. I wrote an introduction to the pamphlet, gave vivid descriptions of five of the gods that govern our modern world, and included a professional conclusion inviting the reader to learn more, suggesting that the pamphlet was not a stand-alone book, but a single reference in a vast collection of knowledge about modern gods. My pamphlet was generally well-received, but four points were withheld from me. The explanation left by the illustrious assistant was just one word; one question:


My claim is that I did, in reality, illustrate my pamphlet, and thus, I deserve those four points withheld from me. To illustrate my claim, I point to the ambiguity of the following statement:

"Illustrate your gods using any method you see fit and turn in the completed
project as a book or pamphlet. Have fun with it!" (emphasis added)

These are the closing lines of the instructions for the take-home portion of the first exam. The instructions were clear, for the most part, but that word - "illustrate" - is ambiguous. Below are two definitions of, "Illustrate," together with their sources:

–verb (used with object)
1. to furnish (a book, magazine, etc.) with drawings, pictures, or other artwork intended for explanation, elucidation, or adornment.
2. to make clear or intelligible, as by examples or analogies; exemplify.
3. Archaic. to enlighten.

"illustrate." Unabridged. Random House, Inc. 29 Oct. 2009.>.

v. tr.
    1. To clarify, as by use of examples or comparisons: The editor illustrated the definition with an example sentence.

    2. To clarify by serving as an example or comparison: The example sentence illustrated the meaning of the word.

  1. To provide (a publication) with explanatory or decorative features: illustrated the book with colorful drawings.

  2. Obsolete To illuminate.

v. intr.
To present a clarification, example, or explanation.

"illustrate." The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition. Houghton Mifflin Company, 2004. 29 Oct. 2009.

Obviously the noble teaching assistants considered the first definition of "illustrate,"referring to furnishing a book with drawings, pictures, or other artwork; however, these dictionary definitions illustrate quite clearly the variance in meaning of this fine word. And is there any doubt that I illustrated my gods? Or said another way, isn't it clear that I presented explanations of my gods, that my vivid descriptions created clear mental images of how these gods live and how they influence our world today? I included histories, interviews, and scientific theories. Did these not illustrate my gods, according to at least one of the definitions I have included above?

And then there are the next words:

"Illustrate your gods using any method you see fit." (emphasis added)

As the creator of this pamphlet, I saw that my method of illustration was adequate. My descriptions were detailed and my imagery was good. According to the instructions, that should be sufficient.

In closing, I wish to say that I have enjoyed this class immensely and I feel that my personal creativity is becoming enhanced as a result of the things I have learned. I believe that my pamphlet was quite creative, in that met the requirements outlined in the instructions while employing a very lateral form of thinking. Please do not punish me for my creative efforts. Reward me. You have taught me well.

Thank you,

Michael Wood


The noble TA's have heard your plea. Because they are wise, just, and creative, they have graciously decided to reward you with the points you so eloquently and humbly requested from them. They are impressed with your ability to wrest the words of their otherwise simple take-home project instructions. Do not be surprised or alarmed if they contact you when they need to eek points out of their less wise, just, and creative professors and TA's in other subject areas. They commend you for your language abilities and exhort you to put your creativity to wise and good use during the remainder of this course.


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