Sunday, June 5, 2016

The Muses

In Our Time on BBC radio recently looked at The Muses. It was online on May 19 and BBC sometimes deletes or locks away their content after some time has passed. The link above probably has a time limit.

I realized that although I had heard of Erato, I didn't know much about these mythical fonts of creativity. Some research - not all that much was needed after Melvin and his Crew discussed the subject, led to details and images.
Calliope is normally the patroness of writers, although there are several that carry a book or scroll symbol.
Urania is the patroness of astronomy, although today, this field is considered to have expanded to include all of science.  Ah considered by those who care about such stuff. At some point in this post, I'm going to have to discuss what value I think the muses have.

I enjoy this description given at Greekmyths-greekmythology. The language is just enough off to make me think this is second language writing and to emphasize the dreamlike or non rational quality of the subject matter. They" were similar to everything." Uh, okay.
According to the Greek Myths, God Zeus bewildered the young woman Mnemosyne and slept with her for nine consecutive nights. The result of their encounter was the Nine Muses, who were similar to everything.
őúnemosyne gave the babies to Nymph Eufime and God Apollo. When they grew up they showed their tendency to the arts, taught by God Apollo himself.
They were not interested in anything of the regular human everyday life and they wanted to dedicate their lives to the Arts. Apollo brought them to the big and beautiful Mount Elikonas, where the older Temple of Zeus used to be. Ever since, the Muses supported and encouraged creation, enhancing imagination and inspiration of the artists.
Muses and Arts
According to the Greek Mythology, two Muses invented theory and practice in learning, three Muses invented the musical vibrations in Lyre, four Muses invented the four known dialects in the language – Attica, Ionian, Aeolian and Dorian – and five muses the five human senses. Seven muses invented the seven chords of the lyre, the seven celestial zones, the seven planets and the seven vocals of the Greek Alphabet.
Ancient History Encyclopedia has an article about the Muses by Mark Cartwright who I think is one of the speakers in the In Our Time podcast.
Alright.  Why do I care?  I am a man trained in science and a dedicated skeptic so I am not planning any sacrifices or offerings.  I think I am fascinated by the Muses in precisely the same way I am fascinated by creativity.  They, or it, are magical, even today.  Poorly understood and maddening.

Even now, we mostly understand why people have creative insight only when they are in laboratory conditions.  For example, the 1931 swinging ropes experiment. A researcher would bring subjects into a room with two hanging ropes, then ask the subjects to hold them both or tie them together.  But the ropes were too far apart to simply hold one and walk to the other.  If subjects appeared stuck or if a set amount of time had passed, the researcher would bump into a rope *accidentally* and the subject would quickly figure out the solution - swing one rope, then walk to the other rope, approach the swinging rope and wait for it to swing into reach.  But when subjects were questioned on what led them to inspiration,  they didn't know, or they told stories that were themselves quite creative.  The timing however showed the real causation.

Is creativity only understandable in situations where researchers have staged a problem? Could asking the Muses for help offer any benefit?  Urania, please help me study and understand!

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