If you hear a voice within you say ‘you cannot paint,’ then by all means paint and that voice will be silenced. -Vincent Van Gogh
Vincent Van Gogh suffered from manic depression and epilepsy, Edvard Munch with hallucinations and anxiety, and as a new study has revealed, Beethoven also suffered from manic depression. One cannot think of the genius of these three without thinking them eccentric to say the very least. Would they have displayed such genius if manic depression and anxiety were not an issue; if the seeds of great ability manifested in spite of illness? Would we then not think of them as exceptional in their field? Or did manic depression and anxiety give rise to their extraordinary talent? Maybe it was a little of both. Ask yourself the same question, would you become more creative after such a diagnoses?
The Question Is there a correlation between Parkinson’s disease and increased creativity? And if so, how much and what are the reasons?
The Study Researchers asked 27 people with Parkinson’s disease and another 27 who didn’t have PD to answer questions in regards to creativity. Everyone chosen was close in age and education levels. The aim was to document the answers in as far as the imagination is concerned for each group after a series of abstract pictures and questions were given. It was found that the Parkinson’s side used more symbolic meanings in their answers than the other side of non-Parkinson’s volunteers who were more literal in their interpretations. And on top of that, the Parkinson’s side who took higher doses of levodopa, the main Parkinson’s medication, scored even higher in symbolic imagination.
In addition, there’s an underlying process at work here that gives cause and effect to our question; with one sense disrupted the others increase in strength. You lose your sight; your hearing becomes more pronounced. It’s the same way with the brain, with one part impaired, the other parts become stronger.
I ask myself the question, have I become more creative? Well, I believe I have but for many reasons and one is because of PD which has caused me to become more mindful, more in touch with my physical self and thus consciously more aware of my limitations and liberations. Thus, I’ve discovered that I love to write and this secret came to me not in a dream but in paying attention to myself, begging the question, “what brings me joy and happiness.” For Oz didn’t give me anything, it was already there, I just needed to get out of my own way. If illness causes one to slow down their busy lives and question themselves than it stands to reason that the extra time will bring about a sea change as one gets in touch with the inner light and brings to the surface the creative instincts from these fluid waters.
Now I take levodopa for PD and as the study indicates higher doses of this medication points to an increase in creativity. Is it the sole reason or is it in addition to the natural process of one part of the brain increasing as another is in decline; so levodopa would enhance what is already enhanced to an even greater degree according to the reasoning of the study.
I may still have PD but with the drug I am able to improve cognition and increase physical aptness, all the while remembering my infirmities as mindfulness is ever-present. And in my way of thinking, what we call getting lost in one’s art is simply a deep-seated mindfulness; a total ‘at-one-ment’ with the present moment. And that to me is the first spark of creativity as all these developments in our lives come together and allow us this new gift where everything else takes a back seat. This is one method of coping, of living with Parkinson’s.
I see that I have painted a rosy picture when in fact it’s never that easy as it takes patience and time to come to grips with a change in our lives. And there is a price to pay for disregarded signs of difficulties. What happens when the medications are not as effective or we’re constantly shuffling between off and on periods as happens with levodopa; especially after it has been our mainstay for several years? We can see the demise in many as a disregard for proper treatment goes too far for the sake of creativity. One has to just think of Van Gogh as manic depression gives way to incredible highs and despairing lows. It can give but also takes away as mindfulness and meaning give way to emptiness and apathy.
After Thoughts A friend of mine was insulted by this study, he is an artist and has Parkinson’s, and refuses to believe that Parkinson’s gives to increased creativity. In his line of thinking to give any credit to a condition such as Parkinson’s was to cheapen creativity. He also felt that by bringing up the names of Van Gogh and Munch, the researcher brought into the experiment too much of a comparison between what constitutes great art and what does not.
But as I told him, the keyword is creativity; we look at Van Gogh’s, as well as Munch and Beethoven. You might be a great artist but not necessarily be very creative. What you did before your diagnosis is a moot point. The first step is your mental reaction to this life altering prognosis. Then the real gist of the study is plain and simple, does a disease like PD push one to become more creative… period. And the form it takes is anything from gardening, painting, writing, crafts to philosophy and astronomy; anything that sparks the creative mind.
The study does not suggest that upon diagnosis I will start to paint like Van Gogh. I believe it opens a door to a world where as before we may not have taken time to notice. And we become more creative for many reasons but most importantly because something is lost to us and needs to manifest its way out in another form of our invention.
Please feel free to like, follow or comment, if you or someone you know has any connection with Parkinson’s disease.