The koala bear, that cute and cuddly-looking creature inhabiting the native eucalyptus trees of eastern coastal Australia, has many curious aspects to it. For one, it isn’t actually a bear, but a marsupial– like a kangaroo. Furthermore, it has an unusually slow metabolism and spends the majority of its time asleep and motionless. The bulk of the koala’s waking hours is devoted to eating, more specifically, grinding down the tough and bitter eucalyptus leaves into a fine paste before swallowing. And though they may look cute and cuddly, they are actually quiet aggressive, becoming easily stressed when handled by humans, making it illegal to do so except by special permit.
Most curious of all is what’s behind those innocent-looking eyes: an over-sized cranium housing an undersized brain. Furthermore, unlike the brains of other animals that have a corpus callosum, the bridge which allows for communication between the left and the right brain hemispheres, the two hemispheres of the koala have no direct contact with one another. Like two shriveled prunes sitting atop the brain stem, they bob about in a sea of unintelligent cerebrospinal fluid, leaving the koala with the smallest relative brain size of all such furry creatures and the relative intelligence of a snow globe.
Scientists suspect that it was a gradual change in climate that forced the ancestral koala, whose brain filled the whole of their cranium, to adapt its way overtime into an evolutionary cul-de-sac. The continent dried out, the diverse vegetation was replaced by the hearty but protein-poor eucalyptus trees, and the koala bear’s brain shrunk and cleaved itself into isolated halves; the koala took to sleeping for most of the day.
Needless to say, though still a product of the Ground of Creativity that has produced everything, the koala is not the most creative of creatures.
Your brain, on the other hand, has a different story altogether. It is at the forefront of evolution, reflecting the history of the universe, the evolution of our planet, and the rise of human culture. Opposite the koala’s experience, some scientists suspect that it was the harnessing of fire and the grilling of meat that greatly increased the pre-humans’ ability to assimilate usable protein (You can tell that story at your next raucous outdoor barbeque). The human brain grew and, even more significant, the web of connectedness became increasingly more intricate and efficient. Unlike the koala, the two hemispheres of our brains remain connected, via the corpus callosum, a true super highway of exchange across the two sides of the brain.
The physical seat of our uniquely human ability to create is housed, for the most part, in the brain. Furthermore, creativity and the creative process itself stimulate a positive feedback exchange across the two hemispheres. When you experience creative flow, the so called right brain with its ability to perceive wholeness, and the so called left brain with its ability to identify and perform discrete tasks are both aligned. Creativity itself is a form of personal and cultural evolution happening in real time whenever you feel connected to the world while affecting it in a meaningful way. Like a jazz musician practicing circular breathing, both the gathering and the release share the same moments in time.
So what’s the lesson? In short, don’t drive your creativity into an evolutionary cul-de-sac. Eat well, sleep just enough, keep aggression, sloth, and stress to a minimum. And for your own enjoyment and for the benefit of all of us, put your whole melon to use! Go out and drive that lovely, responsive, enigmatic brain of yours. Create, create, and create some more. Explore its convolutions, cleavages, and connectivity. Let your imagination gallop back and forth across the isthmus of your corpus callosum.
You may pigeonhole yourself saying you are from Venus or Mars. You may think you’re the engineering type, or the scientific type, or the artistic type, or the irredeemably uncreative type. As long as your mind is feeding you dreams, rants, delusions, and insights, as a long as you are able to hold your eyes open for more than half the day and jot a few lines on a piece of a paper, even if it’s nothing more than a well-conceived shopping list, just be thankful you’re not a koala.