Creativity. What it’s not: something reserved for only an elite few nor is it something that flourishes without attention, space and choice. So what is it, where does it come from, and why do we have it at all?
A dear friend of mine whose paintings and restoration work have been seen and praised internationally from Italy to America said he was never more creative than when we was just starting out with no money and no resources to use save his own mind and imagination. With ingenuity he learned how to turn bed sheets into canvases and create paint out of every day items around him. He built buildings and painted murals with a scarcity of materials even rigging machinery from daily household parts to move boulders and raise walls for his buildings. He had a vision and he would do whatever it took to make it happen. Those were perhaps his happiest days. Now in his 60’s with honors and accolades beyond his wildest dreams and so many resources at his fingertips, he finds that his greatest creativity emerges when he delves into new territory where he becomes a novice yet again, where he tries new things and where he creates something new from that which was previously unknown. Creativity calls upon us all when we lean into the edges of the unknown and take that courageous leap forward.
A client of mine has a very rare terminal illness. He’s already beaten all the odds of this disease that typically take one’s life before adolescence. Based on the statistics, he’s an old man. He’s 30. As his illness strips his body of function after function and inflicts new and lasting rounds of pain, his mind remains ever clear. It is only through his creativity, forced to design new ways to make a meaningful life, to fill his days, to live – that he manifests courage, pride and hope…and a wickedly funny sense of humor. This may be a different take on creativity, but it is creativity nonetheless. Creativity calls our imagination forth and can transport us beyond the limits of our bodies and of time. Creativity holds a key to living.
The creative spark begins with acknowledgment that our imaginations are powerful. If I ask you to conjure up an image in your mind of the ocean most of you can easily picture one. If you’ve actually been to the ocean you can likely even conjure up the feelings associated with it. Perhaps you feel calm, peace, fun, or excitement. Perhaps you feel fear or anxiety or seasick. Whatever it is, if you allow your mind to wander and transport your body back to the experience, you are likely to feel the feelings that were imprinted in your cells from your original experience. And you never actually had to leave your couch! This is the bedrock of where conscious memory meets imagination and it is where creativity lives; in our mind’s ability to create images that do not exist in our present moment and use those images to inspire action. For most of us living in the harried, frenzied pace of society with pressure to go, go, go, we don’t sit still long enough to tap into this place inside. Why should we? What is gained from tapping into our creative well? Well arguably every single invention in history has come from a creative mind taking a moment to go inside to their internal place where the unknown and unseen could be tapped. The explorers, dreamers, inventors and artists have historically been on the frontier of change in every civilization. Now, our world today is again on the brink of change with so many of our ‘old’ systems failing. Business as usual is not working and it will take all of our creative energies to devise new solutions, previously unimagined possibilities and out of the box ideas to lead us forward into something new. Whether you do it as a profession or hobby or something much less defined, all of us have a creative spark within and it is simply a matter of choice if you will carve out the space to hear it and nurture it. Whether in the kitchen or garden, in painting, inventing, teaching, parenting, building, designing or any other activity, it all stems from creativity that lies within.
As I write this I am gratefully sitting in a beautiful resort in Mexico where I’ve had the pleasure to meet a most joyful young man named Rojelio who is a waiter here. Rojelio lights up the room the moment he enters and has spread an endless source of kindness to all who he interacts with. This morning I acknowledged his joy and he replied, “Thank you friend! Every day I get to wake up and create joy! I get to meet new people and see the sun, feel the breeze. I create a most happy life!”
Well my friends, that too is creativity. We get to create our attitude and our reactions. So why not create something worthwhile and uplifting? May we all be creating our happiest lives and bringing that kind of joy to others. Where there is hatred, may we create love. Where there is sorrow, may we create hope. Where there is boredom, may we create something new. Where there is complaint, may we create solution. Where there is unrest, may we create safety and peace. Creativity is the space between the known and the unknown where infinite possibilities await.