Thoughts on Creativity -- Newsletter #28
by Donald W. Mathews
Like the sense of presence conveyed by the sun in Mary Oliver's poem, I have a new feeling and appreciation for the meaning of trust. For us humans, trust travels with a co-companion, risk. We are able to risk when there is trust. The more trust, the more risk is available. As trust and risk grow, so does one of our greatest human resources, creativity. In this regard, fear tends to shrink trust and creative potential while love, acceptance and faith in us by another, and self, enhances it. (At its root, faith means trust.) We read trust and emotional levels in each other though the sense of presence--in the poem, by the sun's "relaxed and easy" manner.
There is a connection that can be made in relationship that brings a powerful third force to experience. This is especially true between individuals in rare intimate moments, but it applies to group settings as well. This special quality is found where support is felt by those involved. Because of our vulnerability, we often need a supportive presence to witness explorations into unknown situations or capabilities. This does not mean giving up personal differences, values or opinions in relationship, but rather, being actively supportive of the otheršs expressive process. It is trusting the mysterious creativity inherent in each other's process itself. This is going beyond the edge, beyond protective control of often limiting ego fears.
Storyteller Jay O'Callahan talks about the importance of having a special connection, a relationship, between performer and audience that makes a difference in how the story goes. A supportive energy enhances all present including the work presented. Performers in other art forms mention this too. This is not just about the attitude and emotions of the performer, but equally important, it springs from the attitude and feelings of the audience too. It requires a total commitment by all of being supportively present with mind, body and emotions in the moment of experience--risking trust in a creative process beyond individual control.
In a recent workshop experience with Jay O'Callahan, I personally felt a new level of ease coming from deeper trust in my self and the unfolding process! I feel this came from two sources. First, I felt a high level of acceptance and support by the small group of listeners gathered in my living room waiting to share our stories. More importantly, I opened to a new level of trust in my self and my unrehearsed process. Before the workshop I filled the compost pile that would grow my story with memories and record details. I made a preliminary draft writing, but did not rehearse or revise it--mainly because of time limitations. The trust I felt with others in the workshop shrunk risk to an acceptable level where I experienced an "I-Thou" grace. I then felt safe enough to spontaneously try the story relying on a bare bones list of elements in my mind. The story took on its own creative form during the performance, interchanging some elements and leaving others out! However, the experience was extraordinary for both myself and the audience because it rose naturally from my depths.
The Jewish theologian Martin Buber writes about the "I-Thou" relationship differing from "I-It." "I-Thou" shifts experience allowing intimacy and divinity to enter. It is a total relationship! There is a defensive tightening and smallness with "I-It" that loses the poetic music and mysterious sacredness of "I-Thou." In "I-It" the moist emotional element of heart or loving support is missing! The protection of ego then limits one to the little I or self and excludes the deeper resources of the psyche where the human connection to the network of all life and creative resources are found--where is found the larger "Self" described by Carl Jung.
In Mary Oliver's poem there is this same rich quality of relationship expressed in the warm presence of the sun. The sun does not require anything from us for its gift. It is a matter of grace when we open to it. From a theological point of view, grace is the divine love and protection bestowed freely upon humankind. By definition, grace is also an unmerited excellence or power bestowed by God or the unexplainable mysteries we call by that name. To experience this and our creative potential we must risk opening to the gift in whatever process we have engaged or has engaged us in relationship--we must "trust the process!"