Monday, November 8, 2010

Creativity, part 2

It may seem peculiar to suggest that man has an obligation, or a responsibility, to be creative. No one, however, would dare argue that we don't have a proclivity for it; consciousness and creativty seem like very nearly indivisible forces. Art critic Ellen Dissanayake has argued (to great effect, in my own opinion) that creativity is at the very heart of what distinguishes man from other animals-- a trait hard-wired into the species.

I think we can safely label creativity as the most mysterious and extraordinary of forces readily apparent in man. It mirrors the mystery of life itself: material appears as if from nowhere, taking on shapes and forms no one could have foreseen. It's furthermore quite clearly connected with our emotional capacity: it not only appears, in most cases, to arise from emotional roots, it stimulates us emotionally in powerful ways, connecting it to the selfsame emotional forces which Gurdjieff always said were indispensable to the development of man's soul.

To be sure, the idea is hardly unqiue to Gurdjieff; that theme has surfaced countless times throughout history. The understanding, however, translates quite directly to the inner work we do. Inner work is, in the end, an intensely creative act, and remains so regardless of whether we mistakenly believe that we "do" the work that leads to inner development--an unfortunate dilemma originating in and exploited by the ego-- or acquire an unbrokered experience of the creative action of the divine, Mme. De Salzmann's "higher energy," within us.

The very act of opening, of allowing a higher energy to enter us, may superficially appear to be a destructive act--certainly, there is more than one work that speaks of the "dissolution" of the ego, as though something were being destroyed or lost--but it's actually a stepping aside to allow the mysterious generative forces which the human being is inherently endowed with to do their work: a work our ordinary psyche routinely interferes with.

Indeed, if there are destructive impulses in us, they are the property of the ordinary mind, the mind of this level. The higher, as it's referred to in this work, is endowed exclusively with a most unique and extraordinary positive creative power: one of the aspects of Mercy.

I've spent a lifetime in the creative arts, with mixed "results." In the process of living this act of what I would call perpetual discovery, I've had to endure countless encounters with my own egoism; at the same time, I've had to endure the objective embarassment of praise that comes my way for being "talented," even though I can honestly say I have never felt talented... only

And what interests me is this way in which truly good work
does not come from me.

When a piece of art is worthy... When a painting has a magic to it, when a song very nearly writes itself, when a poem emerges from some unknown space and thrusts itself on to a page while I sit by watching, I am invariably baffled by the question of where it comes from. There was nothing there a moment ago... and suddenly there is a new thing: this artifice which contains a quality of sacredness appears as if from nowhere, and is born into the world.

It reminds me in a way of the big bang: every time it takes place, I feel all over again as though I am miraculously present at the creation of a new universe that did not exist before. Of course the anaolgy may be stretched a bit too thin... After all, a poem is hardly a whole universe... Yet there is a definite relationship between the two actions. They share, put in different and "more scientific" terms, a property of emergence, which is the driving force behind the evolution of complexity... and hence consciousness itself... in the universe.

The Deepest Heart

I wrote a piece for my last CD, "
Elapsed Time Remaining," called "The Deepest Heart." The piece is what it is-- and it's certainly a bit atypical of my compositions. But the title points towards an inner space which receives, and understands, the act of creation differently.

The ultimate repository of creativity in man's inner being--the "deepest heart" of his obligatory creative pulse--lies not within the object that is materially seen, or the musical vibrations which arise in the air. Yet in reviewing and interpreting the "results" of art--be it an Aerosmith song, a Beethoven symphony, or a van Gogh painting, we often make the mistake of thinking that it is the material existence of the artistic piece which is significant.

I say mistake because the ultimate value of what is created--whether by nature or by man-- is never in the material creation itself, but
always lies in the seeing of it.

It is this act of
seeing, so often revisited as the core practice of inner work in "The Reality Of Being," wherein true creativity resides. It's true enough that there is an inherent reciprocity, but through an organic act of receiving more deeply--of allowing life to flow into the centers in a new way, so that we actually live in a less superficial manner--we are able to see that art lies in the seeing and the living, not the doing and the making. The doing and the making are merely paths leading us in the right direction. Ultimately, if we wish to participate in the most intimate form of creativity, we must do this through the receiving of impressions in a much deeper way.

And this is, indeed, exactly why the act of creativity is obligatory for man, why we crave it, and why it is so central to "saving the planet," as Mme. used to say. It is, in fact, what man evolved for, and lies very close indeed to the most essential purposes of his existence.

May the living Light of Christ discover us.

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