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Chew on Life's Big Questions

Does All Creativity Stem From The "Challenge"?

Troy James Sobotka talks about the great, big, profound debate of perception vs. reality.

Recipe for creating phenomenal digital art: Start with expensive gear. Throw in pricey proprietary software. Add a dash of creativity. Right? Wrong, says Troy James Sobotka, a self-described “artsy fartsy type” living in Vancouver who is fascinated with the realm of Free Software, a.k.a. software libre. Sobotka has been attracting attention with his artistic digital creations, such as this one, made with a cheap digital camera and Blender software and recently published on his blog, The Driblet of an Aphorism.

* It should be noted that the song is a remix by Trent Reznor, which undoubtedly was not created using Free Software, but is available license-free here.

Is it harder to make professional-looking and -sounding art with free software? Most artists will say yes. But art takes talent and persistence no matter what. And creative powerhouses such as Sobotka show us that it’s not impossible.

What is the secret sauce that flavors his work? He says, “I’d probably like to say that creativity and such flows out naturally, but that would be lying. It usually starts with a reason for me—something of depth. I believe it was Oscar Wilde that said, ‘An idea that is not dangerous is unworthy of being called an idea at all.’ If there isn’t anything challenging—be it in practice, execution, design, content—I have trouble getting passionate or interested in it.”

Directly or indirectly, the “challenge” seems to be one of Sobotka’s most powerful drivers for creativity, whether it is the subject or the means—the challenge of a broken heart, the challenge of communicating a feeling, or the challenge of mastering a certain medium. In this case, Sobotka is driven by the “challenge of self”—the idea of overcoming all those things that can be used as excuses for not creating: “I don’t have the right software. I don’t have time. I need a nap. What if I’m not good enough?”

In many cases, the machinations and procrastinations of “self” can be the biggest barrier to creativity being realized as brilliant art. We, for one, are glad Sobotka is up for the challenge. In a recent conversation with SoulPancake, Sobotka offers his take on truth, discovery, invention, and Life’s Big Questions.

SP: You have one hour left on earth—how do you spend it?
TJS: Packing. Moving to a new house is always a painful experience. Moving to a new planet is worse, especially if you have a big couch.

SP: Why do bad things happen to good people?
TJS: Wasn’t Einstein clear enough? Aside from the speed of light, everything is relative. The sciences embrace this, and yet we will struggle dearly with it philosophically. If only the world were good and bad, it would make things much easier, no?

SP: How do you know when you are doing the right thing?
TJS: Life isn’t about doing the right thing, as it is unavoidable that you will make a decision that appears poor at some point. Some of the most magical people I have had the pleasure of meeting don’t do the ‘right thing’—they are extremely adept at recovering from all of the ‘wrong things.’

SP: If you could get rid of one invention, what would it be?
TJS: Wow... can I have a few? I’d get rid of music. I’d get rid of science. I’d get rid of pencils and paint. I’d get rid of books. I’d get rid of poetry. Only after that would it be painfully clear the value of their presence.

SP: That’s interesting. Do you consider science to be an invention?
TJS: Absolutely.

SP: Are you talking about the process of the investigation of truth or the tools we’ve invented to do that?
TJS: Everything. Think about our world if Leonardo da Pisa didn’t value the Arabic numeral system invention. Think about the invention process—hypothetical procedure. Science itself is an invention. It is nothing more than sculpture.

SP: I’ve always been interested in the distinction (or lack thereof) between discovery and invention/creation. Discovery implies that there’s a truth there to be discovered—if one person doesn’t discover it, another will. Do you believe that?
TJS: Truth is relative. I couldn’t sit here and tell you that Michelangelo ‘discovered’ David, although he would say it was there waiting to be discovered. There is no truth. Isn’t that clear? If you and I sit on either side of a coin pinched between glass, we would argue to death that our perception of that coin were ‘truth.’ It’s tricky stuff. The more you look, the more the vertigo sets in and you go back to fumbling around blindly in your daily routines.

SP: But do you think we invent the laws of nature?
TJS: Of course we do.

SP: But we didn’t invent the way the universe is expanding, or the path of Jupiter. How did we ‘invent’ those things?
TJS: Science seems to be sculpting a bit of a David of its own, relative to the invented metrics. And I’d probably suggest that we did invent our perception of what a planet is or isn’t. Is Pluto a planet?

SP: So nothing exists outside of our perception?
TJS: Tough one on that count. I’d like to think that Pluto exists, but the cornerstone of all relativity is the perception. Without a point of relativity—a singular point—it all becomes moot, doesn’t it? Paradox and nightmare. With a singular point, it’s all fine and dandy—and real. I will never go to Pluto. I will never touch it. If all of the ‘facts’ and ‘truths’ that I rely upon daily turn out to be a sham, does that make my current reality any less real? And perhaps more importantly, does it really matter?

SP: Very good questions.
TJS: Many years ago, I had a dear, immovable friend. While everyone was becoming fascinated with LSD and lofty, ethereal ideas, he simply plodded on. He was incredibly bright, but he just plodded on. He had somehow realized that all of this dissolves into nothingness if you look too closely at it. And yet it is in our nature to do that: If I came up and told you the meaning of life, you would probably keep looking.

SP: Maybe, yes. Each person probably has to find the meaning of life for him or herself.
TJS: It isn’t there. Never will be. We go in loops, cycling around, creating God. Again and again.

:: Intellectual discovery navigated by Kelly Snook

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