When I entered grad school, I started to notice the interconnected nature of the subject-matter before me. True understanding means seeing how things are connected (and, as a side note, also being able to identify the limits / flaws of any theory or model).
My vacation reading has included the audio book version of Erich Fromm's The Art of Being, as well as Simon Reynolds' Rip It Up and Start Again. Fromm is a Psychologist and Humanist Philosopher, and his work The Art of Being is a collection of semi-related works from the mid-1970s. Rip It Up and Start Again is a Non-Fiction work about the era of music known as Post-Punk (1978-1984). So aside from the vague 1970s references, what commonality do these works share?
Maybe the commonality has do with with certain truths. Maybe, on the other hand, my analysis is only a shallow reflection of my preconceptions. But what I see as the overlapping theme threaded throughout is the idea of evolution. Fromm is a realist who is well-aware that his philosophies are grounded in the laws of evolution. Reynold's, whether aware of what he is doing or not, dissects the evolution of music through a specific timeframe. What is most interesting about this era is that it was defined by an attempt to reject the inevitability of evolution itself! It was an era in which musicians actually tried to shed the influences of everything which came before in an attempt to create something completely new. They even went to such ridiculous extremes as to legitimize non-musicians as brilliant musicians (the No-Wave trend). Others espoused a "belief-system" called de-evolution (the band Devo). But of course it was entirely impossible to eliminate the inevitable force of evolution. The struggle for survival and thrival amidst a demanding reality of scarcity applied even to No-Wave music, for example. At the same time, it should be said that such a radical approach to things actually did accelerate the evolution of music and compromised an interesting era of creativity.
Any philosophy not aware of the forces of evolution is a flawed and ineffective one. An awareness of how evolution affects everything we are and everything we do leads to a very sober, yet correct analysis of things. Fromm, for example, ponders the "meaning of life question". His conclusion is that this is a meaningless question. He says it is more interesting to consider the need humans have to ask this question in the first place. Whatever answers we come up with are really just personal justifications for the desire nature has implanted within us: the desire to live.
What of "awareness"? The more successful musician is aware of the fact that her work exists in a "landscape" which brings with it certain conventions. She is well-educated on her instrument and has listened to a wide variety of music. She is able to synthesize all of this into a work of art that is both interesting and accepted by the audience...the life-blood of any artist. Similarly, the more "correct-living" person is also aware that his life is restricted by the landscape he lives in. Rather than filling his mind with that which is mystical and made-up, he learns to observe reality as it is. He is well-educated. He knows where he fits within the economic landscape that actually exists. He is aware of the forces at work.
True creativity and success starts with a coming-to-terms with the idea of evolution. Like a musician has to first learn his instrument before effectively expressing himself creatively, we all need to first learn about the reality we exist within before we can master the art of living...creative, meaningful, successful living.