Our creativity in all instances is to be put to the use of compassion. When it is not, then racism and sexism, militarism and giant capitalism will co-opt the image of God in people and use creativity not to return blessing for blessing but to curse and destroy. Much creativity, after all, went into Hitler’s ovens for efficient human extermination at Auschwitz; and an immense amount of creativity and skill goes into planning and building a Trident submarine today. This is creativity, but it is not new creation. It is, potentially, the end of all creation as humanity knows it and shares in it. Clearly our creative energy needs some steering and some directions to follow if it is to save and liberate and not to enslave and destroy.
The sun shines
in bright defiance
of the dark horizon
with the light
I am showing up
for my date with the muse
she is lounging
in the pear tree
discussing with the blossoms
the anticipated flavor
of the fruit
— Lisa Kagan
“Date with the Muse” excerpt
In the early morning hour,
just before dawn, lover and beloved wake
and take a drink of water.
She asks, “Do you love me or yourself more?
Really, tell me the absolute truth.”
He says, “There’s nothing left of me.
I’m like a ruby held up to the sunrise.
Is it still a stone, or a world
made of redness? It has no resistance
This is how Hallaj said, I am God,
and told the truth!
The ruby and the sunrise are one.
Be courageous and discipline yourself.
Completely become hearing and ear,
and wear this sun-ruby as an earring.
Work. Keep digging your well.
Don’t think about getting off from work.
Water is there somewhere.
Submit to a daily practice.
Your loyalty to that
is a ring on the door.
Keep knocking, and the joy inside
will eventually open a window
and look out to see who’s there.
I went to see this woman read poetry last night. On the way to the bus my belly ached. Was it my period coming? Or the shot of tequila I threw down before I left? Or was it the rage that burns in me – to live with this insanity a few white men have named freedom?
The bus careened downtown and I joked with the driver. When I got to the bar I found a good seat and looked busy with my own reeling thoughts about self-conscious bar scenes. Then She walked onto the little stage. She said shed like skin, like snake skin. She said fire, She said let your fire out so it don’t burn you up. She said incinerate. She spoke words I could smell, tissue and blood. She spoke of death as a reason for living. She said take your time back and use it. Take what life you have left and burn with it. She said Pleasure and left the stage.
I don’t know if I seemed mean at the bus stop. It was late and I was the only woman on the street. All those words and Universe came down in a second to one woman determined to get herself home alive. When the bus hit my neighborhood with the strip of lights I know better than the stars, I got off. I needed to walk with the Moon. She almost full.
Me spilling over, whispering poems under my breath, so she could hear me above the traffic. And there on the ugly street, I burned beautifully under the Moon, bright red with a thousand connections…the tides, the blood, the words, the power to go on.
I say make connections unseen. Make something you can’t buy or sell or love or hate. Make something you can’t explain, something that burns in the night. Make truth and give it away.
~ Ellen Hinchcliffe, Night Story
(Otto) Rank observes that while the individual is at once creator and creature, in neurosis “the creative expression of will is a negative one, resting on the denial of the creator role.” Rank learned that a lot of emotional problems are creatively brought about by the neurotic in a process he called “a gain through illness,” which derives from a “philosophy of suffering.” This pain “is self-willed, a sort of creation that can find expression only in this negative, destructive way.” Since neurosis is a negative act of creativity, healing can happen through redirecting one’s creative impulses to love of life rather than love of suffering, to creativity rather than control. The neurotic has failed to achieve normal development and corresponds to the failed artist (artiste manque). “Both illness and work are the expression of the creative will in the individual.” The artiste manque is one who has failed to accept the burden of his or her difference. Every responsible artist comes to grips with his or her differentiation from others. There follows an immense feeling of guilt for “unused life, the unlived in us,” when we fail our responsibility to give birth as we are here to do. *
I carve cathedrals
with the sweep of my arms
I turn whirlwinds of change
I center and ground
deep bend to the earth
recenter and move
scooping sorrow like birds
each motion rebalancing somehow
earth and sky self and divine
sacred love and sacred growth
temple dancer’s work
spinning the world into balance
exhausted heap I fall
I write to hear my voice, because there are place of honesty and beauty that I go in my writing that I can’t always go in my life, and I must. When I write, I let the parts of me that hold my breath, breathe. I write to let light into my being and let darkness out, to own myself, capturing the rhythms of my cycles: journeys into the abyss, travels through glory. I write to allow myself to feel, climb inside my emotions and explore their reaches and textures, summon my tears, let them wash me hot and clean then drain me empty and free. I write myself alive and reborn, whole and holy, to experience myself transformed. I write because I hurt and because I love, and so I won’t lose anything. And because I am lonely, sensual and spiritual, and I need to make contact with the divine, and writing for me is like touching: it is rubbing and rolling my body against the divine until my boundaries dissolve and I no longer know where I start and where I stop; I become part of the universal hum. I write to make myself eternal, leave a piece of me stained into the ethers. I write because I believe Goddess listens for the places where we love and own ourselves. I write to keep myself company, keep myself honest, keep from watching TV. I write to keep my Muse intrigued. I write because I can’t draw.
~ Meredith Heller, Why I Write
We find new ways of hardening
hurt into art.
One friend is practising on climbing walls
to strengthen her fingers for sculpture.
She’s making an alabaster torso
with a space inside.
Another learnt to forge metal
to cast her own womb in silver.
Suddenly we are all hammering
hot metal into heresies
from our bodies’ furnaces.
I find myself carving spirals into stone
laying labyrinths in landscape.
–Cora Greenhill, Creating Our Changes
We would prefer to put our imaginations back in the box, to turn our creativity over to others (many of whom are ever so willing to absorb it and dictate to us their own creativity). But then we would feel guilty also. The dilemma for humans is that we are guilty if we create and if we do not create. Masochism, the desire to turn our power over to others rather than to become empowered and responsible, becomes a popular value in a culture built on such ideologies. So does victimization. The original sin becomes our fear of our own originality, our powers of generativity, our origins, our birth, our genesis, our beginnings – even our generosity, which like so much else in the universe is God-like in its scope.
The golden opportunity you are seeking is in yourself. It is not in your environment; it is not in luck or chance, or the help of others; it is in yourself alone.
–Orison Swett Marden
There is a poem buried
beneath your resistance
to this moment.
I can see the tip
of its shiny head
every time you move
out of the way.
It is your reward for
showing up in this place
despite all the rain.
It is an excerpt
from a conversation
you are having with God.
You thought it needed
to come from you
when all this time
what was really needed
was for it to come
a circumstance that values your
surrender over your
call to arms.
– Marni Norwich, Armistice
“Well . . . when you finally took time to really notice my flower, you hung all your associations with flowers on my flower . . . as if I think and see what you think and see . . . and I don’t.”
~ Georgia O’Keeffe
It is something to be able to paint a particular picture, or to carve a statue, and so to make a few objects beautiful; but it is far more glorious to carve and paint the very atmosphere and medium through which we look, which morally we can do. To affect the quality of the day, that is the highest of arts. Every man is tasked to make his life, even in its details, worthy of the contemplation of his most elevated and critical hour.
~ Thoreau, Walden
When our ancestors discovered fire back in the savannahs of Africa over a million years ago, they set out on a great journey. When they arrived at the place we not call EuroAsia, the ice age broke out. There they were, fresh from the heat of Africa, forced to live in caves for seven hundred thousand years. Did they give up? Did they fall into masochism and say “Woe is we!”? No. They got to work. They put their imaginations to work. They learned how to prepare hides, sew warm outfits, hunt animals for food and clothing, and how to tell tales around the campfire and entertain themselves. In short, this is where our creativity came to birth.