Over the last years, we have begun to understand a few important things about the brain. The first is that our mental capacities are all about the same. But that does not mean we have the same capabilities in life. That depends on how we use the capacities that we have. There is a lot one can say about how to do that. But one of the most important is that using them well requires a certain amount of “creativity”. And the second thing is that we know a bit more about how creativity works — and doesn’t work.
It turns out that part of being creative depends on how whether we allow ourselves that opportunity. We need to allow ourselves because the brain has a powerful filtering tool in the left prefrontal cotex. This tool gives us the stability we need to retain “cognitive control”. It tells us that a baseball bat is for playing baseball - and that is that. But research shows that if we want to use the baseball bat for other stuff, we need to turn off the filter, at least temporarily. Turning off the filter allows us to see the baseball bat in a new light. It allows us to make new associations.
That brings me to the topic of beer. Jeff Kahn argues that beer was the tools that made civilization possible. You got it. Beer (first developed around 2,000 years ago) is a convenient filter lowering device.
So should we all be drinking more? Not at all. Beer is not the only way to de-filter the brain. The first step in learning how to de-filter is to realize that we need to do it sometimes. The second step is building trust that it works. In other words, we dare not leave the creative work to the artists. We are all artists now in life’s great adventure.