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Thoughts on Creativity -- Newsletter #29
Wounded & Transformed

by Donald W. Mathews

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Jacob...came to a certain place, and stayed there all night because the sun had set... And he dreamed that there was a ladder set up on the earth, and the top of it reached to heaven; and behold, the angels of God were ascending and descending on it! And behold, the Lord stood above it and said, "I am the Lord,...I am with you and will keep you wherever you go,..."

--Genesis 28:11-15

And Jacob was left alone; and a man westled with him until the breaking of the day. When the man saw that he did not prevail against Jacob, he touched the hollow of his thigh; and Jacob's thigh was put out of joint as he wrestled with him. Then he said, "Let me go, for the day is breaking." But Jacob said, "I will not let you go, unless you bless me." And he said to him, "What is your name?" And he said, "Jacob." Then he said, "Your name shall no more be called Jacob, but Israel, for you have striven with God and with men, and have prevailed." Then Jacob asked him, "Tell me, I pray, your name." But he said, "Why is it that you ask my name?" And there he blessed him.

--Genesis 32: 24-29

A dream: Feeling vulnerable inside a well lighted space, I close large barn doors against the darkness outside and place a lock through the hasp loop. My relief is short lived as the loop, to my amazement, slowly parts allowing the doors to open again. I sense a powerful alien presence behind the door, and instinctively, I reach behind the door with my hand. I feel a figure there! Then, I am wrestling with it--an amorphous, unclothed, vaguely human shape. Strangely, as I wrestle with it, I become aware I don't know if it is trying to harm me or love me!

This dream came at a time when I was wrestling to bring a major design project into form (the barn). I was pushing ahead carrying many aspects of the project myself (to close the barn doors). In light of my creative vision, I felt sure the project could move forward toward completion. However, with my singular effort, I was surprised to find others on the team were not yet behind the work--bringing necessary support to complete the project (the doors opened again). Consequently, a wrestling with the relationship issue began, both personally and collectively.

In search of meaning for the dream. I immediately thought of Jacob from the biblical story. He was a sucessful wanderer who overreached--fell out of relationship with his brother. He too dreamt (Genesis 28:12) and wrestled in the night (Genesis 32:24)! I believe much can be learned about the creative process from this important age old story.

As I wrestled with the process, I felt a whole gambit of emotions. For awhile feelings of personal rejection and discouragement came from having put so much of myself into the project--actually all good work. But with the dream, also came the realization there really was more work to be done at this stage of the project (the blessing). In my creative success, finding an excellent design, I had unconsciously overreached in my relationship with other members of the project team. Feeling the pressure of self-imposed time limits for the project and seeing a possible way to make it happen, I essentially tried to carry the group project all by myself! But life intervened with a personally painful blessing--to slow down and build community support first. To be spiritually alive we need both creativity and relationship! It was up to me to put this important teaching into practice--to find the blessing of love in the issue I was wrestling with rather than harm.

When we leave our well-lighted secure spaces in search of something in the dark that calls us--become a wanderer--many unforeseen adventures with unpredictable outcomes greet us. They happen in the darkness where spirits dwell and dreams come forth. I believe the creative moment comes when we chose to stay and wrestle in the darkness with what has been found until the issue yields a blessing. Often it is associated with what we fear most. In the process, we are both wounded and transformed--receive a new identity!

Sometimes a straight forward blessing is given to us in a dream. Jacob dreamt of angels moving back and forth on a ladder between heaven and earth providing God's blessing on his state of darkness and uncertainty. Other times we must wrestle in fear with what has found us until something gives--what has been supporting us or what we have taken a stand on (Jacob's thigh). Although wounded and given the opportunity to quit, if we continue to wrestle in the darkness with the issue until light of dawn (insight) forces a blessing from it, we creatively contribute to the task at hand and to evolution. (Jacob's new name was Israel or God struggles). Creation is still unfolding and the mystery of God does continue to struggle with it. However, our creative participation is essential to Divine success!

Often what we are wrestling with is our own unknown or unclaimed genius or genie. Genius is the spirit of a place, person, group or time. It is our intellectual and creative power. Our potential for loving relationship is also a part of the human genius. Although natural or native to each of us, our genius is often hidden. Sometimes we feel victimized by it. Sometimes genius is considered to be supernatural or divine and therefore not ours. Ultimately, when we have lived long enough to wrestle and find blessings in some of the terrible mysteries of existence including death, we finally become one with the creative genius of our soul. Thus we find our soul's voice and found a new nation with the genius in our transformed being.

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