When I mentioned organizations addressing issues of health and safety in my post yesterday, I was thinking about Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs.
Between high school and my first couple years of college, I felt like every class except for foreign language and mathematics brought Maslow’s hierarchy up as a way to open up a conversation about what motivates humans. If you aren’t familiar with the pyramid below, Maslow’s theory said that the lower needs on the pyramid below had to be satisfied before people could move on to higher concerns. So you need to be secure in physiological and safety needs before you can work on intimate relationships.
It should be noted that despite the popularity of this model, there is no scientific data to back it and studies have found that different cultures prioritize needs differently.
I mention these criticisms of Maslow’s hierarchy because it is easy to look at this pyramid and get the impression that creativity has to wait until all these other needs are met. This reinforces the idea that arts and culture are a luxury that should yield before all the necessities have been addressed. I think we all know there will always be something else that needs to be solved if you subscribe to that thinking.
I will confess that I engaged in that mode of thought at one time. I was elated by the idea that being able to engage in creativity was a sign that you were approaching your fullest self, but depressed when I realized you pretty much had to be independently wealthy if you were going to check-off all the lower levels in order to get to the peak.
I think the case can easily be made that creativity has an important role at lower levels of the pyramid. Shared creative activities contributes to belongingness. Social groups or clubs whether oriented around religion, service, sports or creative activities all create a sense of belonging.
So too does creativity contribute to the next level up, esteem. Feeling that you have mastered a technique or have enough of a grasp of the fundamentals to metaphorically start drawing outside the lines with confidence can bolster self-esteem.
Continuing to develop all your skills, be it creative, personal, emotional, professional, etc eventually leads you to self-actualization as defined by Maslow and others. However, creativity for its own sake, (as opposed in pursuit of securing safety and physiological needs), begins to factor in much earlier.
So don’t be fooled by this popular image into thinking that creative activities are the last thing that people need in their lives.