The creative spirit & the soul's yearning
Our collective calling toward beauty, and a future that depends on it...
This life of ours can feel somewhat like we've lost our way at times. Drowning in the click bait, the fake news, the sound bites, the easy and lazy, the noise of news feeds and social feeds, no wonder we're a new breed of humans - anxious, depressed, diseased with busyness, desperate for communion amidst the hyper connection.
There are those who shrug at the statement that we are all creative beings. That the creative force and spirit is our birthright. Some would rather wither and die lest they connect to something that stirs them to new imaginings, new horizons, fresh perspectives and ideas. And there are those who heed the calling, who know that the creative drive within is the essence of life itself, and we need to awaken it and bring it to life, more than ever.
David Whyte shared, as he does, some remarkable insight on creativity and our work, in one of his earliest prose works, The Heart Aroused: Poetry and the Preservation of the Soul In Corporate America...
The rich flow of creativity, innovation, and almost musical complexity we are looking for in a fulfilled work life cannot be reached through trying or working harder. The medium for the soul, it seems, must be the message. The river down which we raft is made up of the same substance as the great sea of our destination. It is an ever-moving, firsthand creative engagement with life and with others that completes itself simply by being itself. This kind of approach must be seen as the "great art" of working in order to live, of remembering what is most important in the order of priorities and what place we occupy in a much greater story than the one our job description defines. Other "great arts," such as poetry, can remind and embolden us to this end. Whatever we choose to do, the stakes are very high. With a little more care, a little more courage, and, above all, a little more soul, our lives can be so easily discovered and celebrated in work, and not, as now, squandered and lost in its shadow.
Best-selling author, Elizabeth Gilbert, in an interview with On-Being's Krista Tippett, reflected deeply on the gift and challenge of creativity. She defines creativity, in life as in art, as choosing the path of curiosity over the path of fear. This has resonance for our common life too. And, she says, it’s not to be confused with the more familiar trope, to “follow your passion.”
I think curiosity is our friend that teaches us how to become ourselves. And it’s a very gentle friend and a very forgiving friend, and a very constant one. Passion is not so constant, not so gentle, not so forgiving, and sometimes. not so available. And so, when we live in a world that has come to fetishise passion above all, there’s a great deal of pressure around that.
Maria Popova in her Brain Pickings, writes about Patti Smith, who nurtured a lifelong love of the work of William Blake, whom she discovered as a girl, after her mother purchased for her at a church bazaar a handsome 1927 edition of his Songs of Innocence, faithful to the 1789 original, which Blake printed and illuminated himself. Mesmerised by the exquisite marriage of text and image, the young Patti spent hours deciphering Blake’s calligraphy and absorbing every detail of his rich, sensitive illustrations. She has paid homage to Blake through song, and writes and speaks often of his gifts, his near divinity.
William Blake felt that all men possessed visionary power… He did not jealously guard his vision; he shared it through his work and called upon us to animate the creative spirit within us.
When you think of it, all of the best creators call upon us to do this, as if failing to do so is in fact a sin. Emily Dickinson pointed to this acutely in her poem, "I Dwell In Possibility"...
I dwell in Possibility
A fairer House than Prose
More numerous of Windows
Superior for Doors
Of Chambers as the Cedars
Impregnable of eye
And for an everlasting Roof
The Gambrels of the Sky
Of Visitors – the fairest
For Occupation –This
The spreading wide my narrow Hands
To gather Paradise
Paradise, meaning simply being. Stillness. We cannot let the creative spirit soar when we are bogged down in mindless distraction.
And whilst our souls yearn to create, it seems the future will demand it of us if we are to excel in the world of work. As automation, robotics, AI, machines and algorithms proliferate in our organisations, governments and businesses, the human imagination, ideas and creativity will be more important than ever.
How we create, how we build our creative muscle, how we generate good ideas is the tricky part, but the good news is, just like anything, we can learn this great art. Sometimes there's a lengthy incubation period for an idea, sometimes it arrives in a flash. Regardless, we can apply practices to amplify the process of generating ideas and creating.