The Mustard Seed and InnerLight Enlightenment: Growing Creativity in Youth

fiveFirst watercolor painting from a friend’s eight year old son who I am tutoring in art, science, and mathematics.  It is the most beautiful creation I have seen in a couple of years.


Second watercolor painting from my friend’s eight year old son.


Third watercolor painting from my friend’s eight year old son.


Total creation from my friend’s eight year old son in about 1.5-2 hours.

wpid-wp-1418499292336.jpeg Reading It’s Complicated: The Social Life of Networked Teens and meditating on creating a social network for the evolution of creativity in youth in Atlanta while my friend’s eight year old son paints beautiful art.

That night I went to an art show at Railroad Earth, a local artists’ collective and had a wonderful talk with a local artist.  I bought this piece after talking about artificial photosynthesis with the artist.  Here is his blog.


I had seen this work from him a couple of weeks ago and knew I had to talk to him.  I love the chemistry and divinity themes in the drawing.  I will be in conversation with him and we may create other chemistry art for the Atlanta Science Festival.

In_Our_Image (1)

We talked about this video and may create art about artificial leaves.

The artist named Danny and I had a profound conversation about the mind.  We basically came to the common understanding that science is magic and that art is a place where dreams can enter reality.  We talked about how creative pursuits can be curative paths for people who suffer from spiritual darkness or, as the modern medical establishment calls mental illness.  Furthermore, it can be an integral component to education as show here.  It may be the only way to access students with marginal classroom performance.  I have been writing a blog for about the past two years. I write openly about aspects of my life, including my experiences with what has been diagnosed as bipolar disorder I by doctors. For example, this post.  I know there is a risk with writing openly about a diagnosis, but I strongly feel that there need to be some people who advocate for others who are in the shadows. Like people who are homosexual, “coming out” gives one a freedom that enables you to live authentically. I had a crazy idea for an art project to record my brain in what I called the Art-Brain-Philosophy project a couple of years ago that morphed into the blog. I can explain the idea when we meet. The basic idea is to record thoughts in the form of text boxes and map them into a 3D rendered model of a brain in the computer. I had the idea while manic, but I am still working on it because I think it might make a really cool art piece eventually. That is the kind of things that the Icarus Project interests me about. I have a zine by Sascha Altman DuBrul called “Walking the Edge of Insanity” and the Icarus project book that I found in in Charis books. Particularly from “Walking the Edge of Insanity” I really like the idea that the Icarus Project pushes that there is a missing language for the subjective experience of mental illness. I despise the medical language that says I have a “disease of the mind.” Sure I take the medicine, I have learned that much, but there is so much that is oppressive about the biomedical model of mental illness. The French philosopher Michel Foucault came up with the ideas of “biopower” and “biopolitics” to describe how the prevailing system of power in our society tries to control those that it cannot understand, the “mentally ill,” with biological means. Psychopharmaceuticals are perfect examples of biopolitical tools. Take the pill and become “normal.” Is it really that easy?

I explained to Danny my long term vision for a social network for art for youth called InnerLight Enlightenment.  Here is the website of the project so far.  I showed Danny this post from the InnerLight Enlightenment website that I had emailed to a parent at my school after talking to her about the parent, teacher, and student association (PTSA) at my school.  I asked her for ways to fund a robotics club at my school.  After showing Danny this post, he said he really liked my writing style particularly the sentence that reads, “Today’s youth are aflush in a digital culture that permeates every crevice of reality.”  As I am reading in It’s Complicated: The Social Life of Networked Teens, kids use digital tools to socialize and extend their reach to other people.  For example, I am stunned by the awesome Twitter account of an extremely talented member of my school.  I think kids need to be motivated to learn.  The bitter opinion (see this post) that my mentor teacher had about the lack of motivation in students today is absolutely wrong.  Students are motivated by what excites them.  The challenge I have as an educator is to awaken that spark of creativity in each kid.  Looking at the art from my eight year old students above and the awesome football exploits of another student in my school shown in his recruiting footage here, I am absolutely convinced that raw potential in today’s kids is captured in their creations be they on the football field, on the canvas, or in the classroom.  The vision of my social network called InnerLight Enlightenment is to build a physical and digital place for kids in the United states to come together on Saturday to meet and create with local talent.  I wrote this email to my old boss and Danny capturing this vision:

“Dear Dave and Danny,

Dave, I met a local Atlanta artist last night at a Christmas art show at Railroad Earth ( who does printmaking and 3D sculpture.  His website is  I have attached a piece of art of his with a periodic table, a DNA double helix, and a Summerian god that caught my eye at the show.  We ended up talking several hours last night about our philosophies of life and how the arts and the sciences fit into them.  I showed him some of the structures that I had worked on in my time in research and we talked about the idea of doing some collaborative work together.

Danny, Dave is the chairperson of the Emory University chemistry department and the professor that I worked with during my undergraduate days.  He got me hooked on science through my participation in undergraduate research in his laboratory.  Dave is a huge patron of the arts in his later years.  He has done work with Group Intelligence, an immersive mp3 art show:

as well as serving as one of the advisers to the Atlanta Science Festival.

Danny and I talked about the idea of doing some work together where we could do a sustainably funded Saturday school perhaps housed at the local Unitarian Universalist congregation First E ( where kids get the chance to work with real Atlanta artists like Danny and a real Atlanta scientist like me in immersive hands on art and science projects.  I am in conversation with the congregation board about using the Sunday school space in the downstairs part of the church building.  For both of you, please take a look at the opening part of First E’s website for a better insight into its philosophy.

I have this idea for a creative learning space where the generations learn from each other.  Give kids access to cutting edge molecular structures to play with.  Introduce them to Foldit! ( and EtRNA ( and have the kids play with the molecules.  The inherent beauty of the molecules will be the common learning nucleus.  Give kids access to cutting edge technology tools and hands on know how and let the creativity of the group produce art-science pieces.  An example lesson might be about artificial photosynthesis.  I bought an art from Danny last night attached to this message that could be used in a lesson about it.

I have started working with students outside of school on the weekend teaching art, science, and robotics.  One of my students who is 8 years old made the paintings attached as Sebastian1, 2, and 3.  Been working with two kids to try to make real some of these ideas.  I think we could do a social mixing experiment with the art science school.  We would try to bring together black kids with white kids, rich kids with poor kids, kids with ADHD with kids who are always asleep, etc.  Balance the binary opposites with each other.  With your help, Danny, I, and others that are interested in joining into this effort could potentially come up with a solid business plan for the school.  The most interesting thing about such a social experiment is serving as a model system for how schools can teach science across the Ivory tower/Ivy League walls.  Schools like Paideia and Waldorf Schools are great, but not accessible.  What we need is a model that works with public schools for art and science instruction.

Danny and I like the idea of writing grants to fund the school.  It is this area that we need your help.  Do you know of any good funding sources for something that I am describing?  Can we meet during the Christmas break to talk more about this idea?  I’d really like to work hard on this and see it as a strong support for our shared careers.

World class education for those in need.



I also met with Jamaal the coder and he suggested as an alternative place the Opportunity Hub.  I read in Kingonomics last night about Alcoholics Anonymous.  That is a social network that originally started in someone’s house and grew to physical spaces and groups that serve millions.  What about creating a curriculum that can be reproduced for growing creativity and building confidence in today’s youth that is scaleable and can grow logarithemically?  Give freely without asking anything in return, and it may happen.

He said to them, “Because of your little faith. For truly, I say to you, if you have faith like a grain of mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move, and nothing will be impossible for you.”

Matthew 17:20

After starting to teach the 8 year old the first bits of probability theory, I think it is possible.  The talent for solutions for the future is there, we just have to nurture it and allow it to grow.


Creative Commons License
InnerLight Enlightenment by Dr. William Kaya Erbil is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.

About kayaerbil

I am a Berkeley educated chemistry Ph.D. who is moving into the area of working on developing appropriate technology for communities that are subjected to socio-economic oppression. The goal is to use simple and effective designs to empower people to live better lives. Currently, I am working with Native Americans on Pine Ridge, the Lakota reservation in South Dakota. I am working with a Native owned and run solar energy company. We are currently working on building a compressed earth block (CEB) house that showcases many of the technologies that the company has developed. The CEB house is made of locally derived resources, earth from the reservation. The blocks are naturally thermally insulating, keeping the house cool in the summer and warm in the winter. Eventually, a solar air heater and photovoltaic panels will be installed into the house to power the home and keep it warm, while preserving the house off the grid. A side project while in Pine Ridge is a solar computer. I hope to learn about blockchain encryption software for building microgrids. In addition, it is an immediate interest of mine to involve local youth in technology education.
This entry was posted in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.