Eating and Creativity
Recently an idea has been floated that N-acetyl-aspartate or NAA to Neuroscientists, could be the chemical which controls creativity in the human brain. If one or more chemicals in our brain or the nervous system could be the decisive factor for creative talents, it opens up a Pandora’s box.
Are NAA and other such chemicals evenly distributed among all mankind, or does it favour certain ethnic groups or races? Is it hereditary, or does it depend on environmental and social conditions? Since the process involves chemicals, which have to be produced by our own body, it has to be from the food and drink we consume. Then it could mean that our food habits and subsequent conditions of our bodies, play a major role in our creative activities.
At first, the term ‘Food for thought’ could have meant anything that provides mental stimulus for thinking, or intellectual nourishment.
Recently The Environmental News Network (ENN), published some very interesting findings. 75 percent of adults in the 10 richest countries are overweight, while in the 10 poorest, only 18 percent are. A survey of statistics in 177 countries shows 38 percent of adults — those 15 years or older — are now overweight. The trend is strongly correlated to rising income and to an increase in preventable health problems, writes Richard H. Weil in the latest Vital Signs Online release from the Worldwatch Institute.
Who is more creative, the overfed and overweight, or the underfed and underweight? Is it the hunger pangs or the discomfort of a full stomach which flows through the brush or the pen or the keypad? Is it the plain water, tea, coffee, wine or arrack we consume which stimulates the imagination?
Next question is which provides better nourishment, processed food with carcinogenic additives or natural food?
ENN also carried a feature by David A Gabel, commenting on a book, ‘Ancestral Appetites: Food in Prehistory’, written by Kristen Gremillion, associate professor of anthropology at Ohio State University. It is about how people have changed their diets over time in response to new knowledge and new environments. Gremillion has talked about “A new fad that is catching on, known as the Paleolithic or “paleo” diet, which aims to return people to a more “natural” way of eating. Before agriculture, people would eat lean meats, fruits, and vegetables, and they would avoid grains and processed foods…. the so-called caveman diet was abandoned for a reason, and the belief that it is superior is pure hokum…..Humans are omnivores and we can eat a wide range of things,” Gremillion had said. “the obsession with a ‘natural’ diet is a fallacy. He explains that humans began cooking food for a reason. Cooking makes it easier for our bodies to extract certain nutrients, and makes the food easier on our teeth, jaws, and stomachs to digest. After hundreds of thousands of years of cooking, there is no reason for people to give it up.” (http://www.enn.com/top_stories/article/42816).
Perhaps what Gremillion says could also be considered as ‘pure hokum’, if human beings had been totally herbivorous. According to the International Vegetarian Union, the fact that raw meat is almost universally cooked to make it palatable and digestible suggests that pre-Promethean man did not eat meat often or in large amounts. Dr David Ryde has quoted reports from the scientific press of degenerative diseases, such as obesity, gall stones, late-onset diabetes, colon cancer, hypertension, strokes, heart disease, diverticulosis, tooth decay, piles, peptic ulcers and varicose veins, which seem to be linked to a high consumption of animal foods.
Thus among modern mankind, who are eating themselves to death, creativity could be dying too, as it is already on the sick list, unless scientists can find ways to infuse synthetic chemicals into our brains and nervous systems. Or they would try to identify the gene which triggers the production of the chemicals and try to manipulate the genes in the human body. Then man would try to buy creativity, like he tries to buy everything else.
Deprivation, suffering and suppressions in society have always led to great works in literature, art and music. Creativity in adversity, it has been called, and they cite Michelangelo and Leonardo da Vinci who thrived during the time of the Borgias. Terribilita was the word associated with Michelangelo’s work, which is defined in the Oxford dictionary as, “awesomeness or emotional intensity of conception and execution in an artist or work of art, originally as a quality attributed to Michelangelo by his contemporaries”
What is created by a sick and dying person, and what is created by a healthy, happy and contended person, could be totally different. In the same manner what is created by a peaceful, kind hearted person, who lives in perfect harmony with nature, could be creating peaceful, sensitive, mind pleasing works of art. The paintings at Ajantha would have been created by monks who lived on simple food, but with loving kindness in their hearts.
Some of the modern art or fiction or films, could have been created by those who live violently, destroying nature, committing violence on plants and animals, butchering, skinning, chopping, dismembering innocent animals, and then devouring their rotting flesh. Such creations would only contain more violence and mind disturbing works which they would consider as works of art.
Let us hope that man would not be reduced to the pathetic situation where he has to consume chemical cocktails to bring out his creative powers.