The Bliss of Creativity
I made a greeting card this week.
When I create something – anything – I am like a little kid, fully absorbed in the act of expression. Of course, I wander between that silent overconfidence of the novice, thinking my creation is the greatest thing that has ever been born, and the adult in me, who knows I am a skill-less idiot, whose audacity is born of impulse and ignorance. That doesn’t take away the joy of the process for me. That joy dominates until a judging, or worse, silent, public reminds me of the foolishness of that audacity. But until then, I am in the bliss of the imitation of Divinity; lost in the love of nursing something new to life, and in love with it because the process reminds me of the eternity of possibility, the eternity of life, that immortality that in our finite forms we always craves to taste. For me, that is the love in creation, the love of Creation – its eternal gift.
Then, I had to record a video for a study group.
My extensive background in yoga practice, and the obstacles to getting serious about it, occasionally requires me to step up and share my experience in less-than-comfortable ways. Like making videos about stories I’d much rather write than recite for a selfie camera shoot. But again, the process is captivating. The spontaneity required; the needed patience with one’s own mental and psycho-emotional flow, which requires even further suspension of self assessment to stay in the editing process and, eventually, total acceptance to call it complete. I give myself four to five false starts, and then one or two blunders in the delivery, and that’s it: it’s a wrap. But again, I discover after the fourth or fifth viewing that I am okay with my ever-increasing wrinkles, the gravelly unevenness of my aging voice, my child-like emotional demeanor that in sixty years I have failed to overcome. I am really OK with all that; that is, as long as my core point is discernible within the appearances of the ambling wander of a semi-staged living-room chat.
I prepare less than more, and redo even less than that, to keep it natural, and, honestly, to keep it accessible. For all that, it is still the creative process that keeps me in the game. And more, it’s engaging in that process while keeping it relatable, not just to reflect experience or in the pursuit of high-end creative values, but rather to reflect something that will inspire this audience to say, “Yeah, OK, I want that.” I want something that gives voice to at least an imagined shared intent. And there it is again, creating to reach universality, tapping that power to enliven, to awaken through sharing, that something deeper, but collective. At the root of creating anything, sharing anything is the desire to meet, to uncover what unites us, that unity that scientists and artists alike, crave to find in this world of possibility.
Next, I had the privilege of supporting a friend with a blog post she was preparing to showcase her writing.
Observing her process made me long to be creating something – anything – especially because both her prose and her thought process were so engaging. I was excited for her starting down this road – a path I wandered a couple of summers ago, but lost my momentum on, due to lack of engagement. What’s a writer nobody’s reading?
I know the answer to that. A real writer writes. That’s it. They just write. They have to write. And my friend is that writer. The idea rips at her until she unwinds it into words and reflects that inner wonder in outer expression, activating it into the world in its own right. Words written are, again, the birth of an idea, that closeness to God, an existence of their own, beyond the creator or the creation; a part of the Creator and the Creation.
Watching my friend work was delight itself. Her post was 95% finished when she shared it. And she just wanted to say, “Amen, you’re on your own, go find your audience!” But something was niggling at her. And it niggled me too. There, in her final paragraph, was a leap beyond the perfectly constructed body, to a topic that could easily be a whole new blog post, and its presence threw the whole conclusion into confusion. Out of 1500 words, it only required two sentences to be tweaked by a word or two each to restore its trajectory and hit its mark.
Again, the process, the love and engagement of the creator with her creation; the determination, the obligation to authentically reflect the concepts in expression; the need to be done, to allow the offspring, the meaning, to grow on its own, by those who arrive to interact with it. It’s like the perfect seduction. I felt genuine gratitude to be invited into her process, to have the chance to contribute to her birthing, to bear witness to her gift taking root, alive and well in this material world.
And then finally, today, I had no pressing production to enliven, no midwifing to enjoin.
I dragged myself through my second workout, wondering, where could I find an engagement in my own inner world that was worth the effort to bring it out to a life of its own?
Somehow, I landed on a playlist of Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young on YouTube, and as I stretched and pretzeled myself into a more stable pelvis, I reminisced on how I first came to hear these songs. Many were introduced by my beloved cousin, Dani, who introduced me to much of a world beyond my age, that I could never quite reach in time. The music was so enthralling, so emotionally moving, with its big strings and dancing pianos, plucky lead riffs, and anchoring bass and rhythm guitars. These were troubadour warriors fighting against the status quo by finding love in everything, from leaving on jet planes, to our house, the dialogues between old men, and their restless younger counterparts, whether Cat Stevens, or Neil Young. Or the incomparable Joni skating on a river and Carole moving the earth under our feet, two wonder women who taught us that music was not just for men and by men, but belonged in a woman’s world too. It was the heaven of expressing our most authentic, passionate, poetic, truth; uncensored, unfiltered, on display, driving us inward for a deeper look at the ticking time bomb of life from the inside out. No one was numb. No one was selfish. Everyone was creating, from the darkness into the light; only into the light.
I became aware of how the idealism of a ‘60s childhood left me ill prepared for a world gone Capitalist Pragmatic. That very idealism gave rise to that pragmatism, and that pragmatism, as it dissolved into a pursuit of relevance and power, would eventually give rise to its near opposite: absurdity – literally, a world where facts are meaningless and our response to truth is indistinguishable from our response to falsehood.
I was groomed for a world of loving care, for fairness and justice, and working it out because we all played by a set of fair rules, or at least thought we did, or intended to. I was not prepared for a series of further, sharper-right turns back to an era of greed-grown robber barons, global destruction, and lying about it for profit; or for the subsequent collective rage, rooted in lack and identity insecurity on an unprecedented globalized scale.
Though I did see it coming. On November 4th, 1980, with the election of Ronald Reagan, I declared, completely seriously, in my youthful exaggeration “Now, the world will come to end.” And sadly, and maddeningly, how right that would prove to be … at least the world I was looking to live in, came to an end.
But in that playlist was a reunion concert recording of Art Garfunkel and Paul Simon, harmonizing on “The Sounds of Silence”. Though they too were showing their age, their voices resounded with an angelic preservation, as if time had left them untouched for the sake of revelation. I was pulled, all the way to the silent stillness within, where we sit in the beauty of nothing but this moment, until even that dissolves into pure, shooting bliss.
“The words of the prophets are written on the subway walls … and tenement halls, whispering … in the sounds of silence.…”
And again, I remembered how important it was to create, and to celebrate the grace of creativity, in and all around us, because it, it alone, reminds us to uphold the ideal, our ideals. Once again, I was awakened to eternality, through a work of art. Immortality, in and by the finite; not by my hand but by others’ gifts. That beauty brought me right home to the core of the Self, something that itself reminds us to stay human.
There, in that place, came a spark, an impulse of idea that gave rise to this essay; a flash worth the effort to form something to say, to make something, to bring that little immortal moment of Divinity into the finite and let it take on a life of its own … even if no one else ever bothers to read it.