Something that has become very clear to me in college is the difference between critical thinking and creative thinking. I have always known that they are different ways of thinking, but I didn’t understand how; I just knew that I hated school for making me think of something other than the stories I was creating but at the same time I was wishing to become the greatest intellectual. I am not sure if I am good at either, but they both appeal to me.
Increasingly though, I am seeing how creative and critical thinking directly oppose each other, and it’s hard to balance and use one or the other at the most opportune times. I am one that lives by following my emotions. I wallow in my emotions and in my mind which can be rather practical, abstract, cynical, joyful, sarcastic, optimistic, and pessimistic. That is creative thinking. Critical thinking is monotonous where everything must be taken seriously. It prevents wandering thought and freedom because it is very structured and politically correct. I like the way of critical thinking, because you can explain anything by being organized, there is a reason why you are thinking and writing, whereas creative thinking is spontaneous and not a lot of people will understand or accept your ideas and writing.
Our current lecturer in Hum. Core, Professor Sharon Block, has a PhD in history, focusing on gender and sexuality in colonial America. She is the third history professor we’ve had in Humanities core. There’s a thing about history people that I have noticed since middle school (I am majoring in History BTW) and our professor actually pointed it out: “History people always look so happy. History is a happy profession.” Yes!!! That is true!!! My history teachers have always been the funniest and most casual people. Even now in college, history professors stand out from the other areas of the Humanities. They are personal, they are passionate in a lighthearted way, almost child-like excitement. They don’t sound like the world is falling apart, they are not dramatic. They are very refreshing.
All of this I’ve thought before but what brought it back to my mind (and alleviate my heart) was the Civil War Soldiers sketch on Saturday Night Live (April 15, 2017). It reminded me of why I fell in love with history in the first place. I fell in love with history because of my middle school history teacher (I had the same teacher the three years), she was obsessed with the Civil War. Everything she taught she had us experience. With her, history came to life and it was beautiful. This SNL sketch also reminded me of the freedom of using imagination to try to understand history. Doing this makes history relatable because, and this is true (?), history is people who are the same as us. I love to think, in fact I whole-heartedly believe, that something like what happens in the skit actually happened. People are amazing, and critical thinking refuses to acknowledge that, because it focuses on reality.
One of the things I love about Professor Block is that she is obsessed with planter and writer William Byrd II, a person any critical thinker will dislike for being a slave owner, a cheater, and rich. Our professor isn’t ashamed of saying that this guy is awesome in his own weird way. That’s the thing about history people, we know that every human being is an asshole, so we can look past that and see the good or interesting qualities of people. That’s what makes us able to stand studying the ever-present cruelty in history and life. If every historian approached history being full-heartedly a critical thinker, they would kill themselves because of the overwhelming negativity. Perhaps that is part of every discipline in the humanities, which is why people are very passionate about their focus.
Speaking as a creative writer, something that I’ve always wanted is for my poems and stories to be known enough to be analyzed by a bunch of people; because I would love to know what other people think is going on in my psyche through analysis and to tell me how much of an asshole I am through critical thinking.