Yesterday I received in the mail an unexpected gift from a woman whose insights and thoughts are always pearls of wisdom, which I highly value. A simple offering obviously made with love, it is an image carefully cut out and pasted onto deep blue paper, with unpretentious silver letters above and below: “CREATIVE EDGE—a place of merging: HARMONIC CONVERGENCE.” Centered in the middle is a translucent globe, edged on one half with fire and light and on the other side with cold blue energy. Inside the sphere are overlapping images of faces and goblets, in an evocative, delicate balance.
It sits now on my desk, an invitation to consider its meaning at the start of this new year. The way the two opposite sides of the sphere come together to make a whole catches my interest. How does this relate to the creative process?
Imagine holding a ball in your hand. You can see the side that is closest to you, but the far side is hidden from view. Your experience in this moment is of one side, but you know the other side exists even if you aren’t in direct contact with it. Both sides make up the whole of the ball—you cannot have one side without the other, or it wouldn’t be a ball. Our appreciation of the ball comes because we accept its wholeness: the side towards the light that we are experiencing now, and the far side that exists simultaneously in the dark.
You can’t have one without the other. This seems a simple concept until you use it to consider our experiences as human beings. We make judgments, consciously or unconsciously, as to the value of different sides of our experience. We delineate between that which we consider ‘good’ and that which we deem to be ‘not good’, or ‘bad.’ Happiness is good, sadness is bad. Light is good, dark is bad. What we know is good and the unknown is bad— you get the picture. Although the designations may be different for various groups and individuals, the general idea holds true. We work to stay in what we consider ‘good’ territory, and often avoid venturing into the darker regions. If we inadvertently find ourselves there, we frantically look for a way out. Our suffering comes because we are in one place but we believe it would be better if we were somewhere else.
In the creative process, this human judgment of polarities can get in the way of freely expressing ourselves. It can stop creativity in its tracks. If the materials don’t do what we want because of lack of skill, we can feel pain. If the finished product doesn’t exactly match our vision, we can get upset. If we never start a project because of fear, we judge ourselves in a negative light.
But what happens if we embrace where our creativity has brought us, and trust that there are riches to be mined in this unknown territory? Where would our creativity take us if we listened to our art materials and followed their lead into the mystery, instead of forcing the process? What an adventure it would be! If there is no judgment about the current situation, our creative spirits could soar in appreciation of the experience. Like the faces in the image on my desk, there would be a merging of the dark and the light, with the resultant unique vision created from the convergence. This is the wisdom from a small picture sent by my mentor friend: hold all of life as precious and worthy of investigation. The creative edge, that place between the known and the unknown, is the light and the dark, the good and the bad, is a place of wholeness for those lucky enough to journey there. When you find yourself on the dark side of an experience, and believe me, that moment comes in many forms multiple times in the creative journey, trust that there are opportunities to explore. Your life will be richer for having traveled there.