Thoughts on Creativity -- Newsletter #27
by Donald W. Mathews
This poem found in the first section of Psalm 19, an ancient Hebrew song, declares the awesome natural wonder found in the innate silent gifts of sun and moon. For the psalmist, this natural phenomenon and its mystery is "telling the glory God." God being the word we humans use for the ineffable, indescribable or unspeakable mysteries that touch all of our lives in many ways. In our attempt to understand and live in relationship with the ineffable, we have exercised our deepest imagination coming up with many competing forms and images for God. However, in the process of religious comparison, we often lose contact with the awesome uplifting mystery of creation itself and fear the profound emotions associated with it!
Awe is an "emotion of mingled reverence, dread, and wonder inspired by something majestic or sublime." It is a mixture of fear, surprise and admiration. Awesomeness takes our breath away! With awesomeness we lose control--if only for a moment. No wonder we fear it. However, when the source is pleasing, as in nature's wonders, it often arouses deep contemplation and unpredictable inspiration! The mysteries of creation and God have inspired creative people of all kinds throughout the ages. Their work is art because they have been dangerously touched by the emotions of awe! The wonder of nature or the poet's words can lead us back to our emotions, to our heart where awesomeness can literally stop all human activity in order to recreate a space for creative inspiration's seed.
In my last Thoughts on Creativity #26, I discussed the mystery of inspiration found in both religious and creative processes. I mentioned inspiration's revelations often feel awesome and threatening to us because they lead into the fullness of our own life. In our culture, governed by the scientific method, the emotional dimension containing awe is too often neglected in favor of intellectual control. We often forget to let go of our task oriented focus, our busy values, our doing, and acknowledge the necessity of emotional food provided by our being. The mind with its focus has the great gift of concentration to the exclusion of all else, but it may also be a trap or prison unconsciously built, denying other gifts--awesome emotional gifts of the heart.
This is where spiritual life comes in to play. Spiritual life is primarily about beingness. It is to have innate value in our very existence and is independent of our capacity for doing! Beingness and spirituality are found in healthy relationships, particularly relationships that include both the fullness of knowing and sharing our deepest nature. True relationship, like creativity, comes from quality in-depth expression and its acknowledgment. It is emotionally fluid with feelings of trust--the trust necessary for easy openness and honesty. When true relationship occurs, it is awesome to experience! True relationship often first occurs when we are safely alone. It comes as we move into relationship with the many and often hidden parts of self. It comes when we begin to experience the many different aspects found in human nature. The psyche of each person contains a full cast of characters, some visible and known, others unexplored. Some have not consciously seen the light of day for years! Others are at war. Some are highly skilled, others are not at all productive. However, our dreams readily reveal our full cast of characters and their dynamics. When we begin to appreciate all our dream characters and other creative images as potentially valuable parts of self, liked or disliked, we begin a true relationship with our divine creative being.
At a recent lecture on quality living & dying, the speaker mentioned pain and suffering as a source of our greatest fears--particularly in later life when our productive doing capacity wanes or is threatened. The speaker made a distinction between pain and suffering. Pain was described from a physical problem often easily controlled by the medical profession using modern drugs. Suffering was much less tangible--it was described as an emotional problem of the heart or spirit requiring a different kind of attention. It may come from the emotional shock of lost physical capacity or meaningful work--our capacity for doing. Unless we have the ability to find value in our being, ultimately we will suffer greatly as we lose physical or mental capacities necessary for doing.
I believe we must all address core issues about our existence and experience in it, particularly the issue of life's meaning in the face of death. This is the spiritual work of later life, and it lays the foundation for the fullness of being when our capacity for doing is finished. As the poet said. The sun is at the heart of survival for all living organisms and its innate life giving rays reach out for all with out discrimination. We too have an innate heat in our being, it is our awesome capacity for loving relationship.