Why Man Creates

Why Man Creates
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Documentary film by Saul Bass, 1968

I loved this film when I first saw it in grade school. I remember being riveted and inspired by the visuals, the imagination, and the thoughts it portrayed. Later I learned it was created by a master of such things, Saul Bass. That knowledge made me think deeper.

Today I searched for the film and, unable to find a screenplay, transcribed the major text, reproduced below. I find its message just as thought-provoking today as it was when it first came out.

-Lester Yocum

Transcriptions of Major Passages

Where do ideas come from?

From looking at one thing and seeing another.

From fooling around and playing with possibilities.

Speculating, changing, pushing, pulling – transforming.

And if you’re lucky you come up with something maybe worth saving, using, and building on.

That’s where the game stops and the work begins. – Narrator (08:17)

I admitted I had days of such discouragement that I ached to give it all up but something kept me going. I guess it was faith, the kind you have when you’re very young and don’t know any better. – Thomas Edison (9:36)

When the stuff comes alive and turns crazy on you a writer had better be in pretty good shape with good legs and a counterpunch and ready to fight like hell to the bloody end. – Ernest Hemingway (10:14)

As one grows older, one sees the impossibility of imposing your will on the chaos with brute force. But it you are patient there may come that moment when, while eating an apple, the solution presents itself politely and says, “Here I am.” Albert Einstein (10:51)

Snail 1: “Have you ever thought that radical ideas threaten institutions, then become institutions and in turn reject radical ideas which threaten institutions?”

Snail 2: “No.”

Snail 1: “Gee, for a minute I thought I had something.” (16:57)

Why does man create?

Men have struggled against time, against decay, against destruction, against death.
Some have cried out in torment and agony.
Some have fought with arrogance and fierce pride.
Some challenged the Gods, matching power with power.

Some have celebrated life.
Some have burned with faith.
Some have spoken in voices we no longer understand.
Some have spoken eloquently.
Some have spoken inarticulately, some haltingly.
Some have been almost mute.

Yet among all the variety of human expression a thread of connection, a common mark can be seen.

That urge to look into oneself and, out of the world, say, “This is what I am. I am unique. I am here. I am.” Narrator (20:38)