Art: Old and New
The Creative Life
Wednesday, November 13, 2019
I’ve discussed public and even famous works of art this week, but the very process of creating art is valuable and generative, even if no one else ever sees it. Mirabai Starr reminds us of the freedom of childhood and encourages us to be courageous and to embrace our creative nature once again. While we may consider childhood to be in our distant past, a child is still within each of us today.
When you were a child, you knew yourself to be cocreator of the universe. But little by little you forgot who you were. When you were a child, everything was about color. Now you pick black as your automatic font color, because that is the coin of the realm. When you were a child, you traveled from place to place by dancing, and now you cultivate stillness, which is great, but you are forgetting how to move to the music of your soul. You can hardly even hear that inner music over the clamor of all your obligations. . . .
Yes, you are worthy of art making. Dispense with the hierarchy in your head that silences your own creative voice. . . . It is not only your birthright to create, it is your true nature. The world will be healed when you take up your brush and shake your body and sing your heart out. . . .
The part of our brains with which we navigate the challenges of the everyday world is uneasy in the unpredictable sphere of art making. We cannot squeeze ourselves through the eye of the needle to reach the land of wild creativity whilst saddled to the frontal cortex, whose job it is to evaluate external circumstances and regulate appropriate behavior. Creativity has a habit of defying good sense. I am not arguing, however, that the intellect has no place in the creative enterprise. The most intelligent people I know are artists and musicians. Their finely tuned minds are always grappling with some creative conundrum, trying to find ways to translate the music they hear in the concert hall of their heads into some intelligible form that others can grasp and appreciate.
What a creative life demands is that we take risks. They may be calculated risks; they may yield entrepreneurial fruits, or they may simply enrich our own lives. Creative risk taking might not turn our life upside down but, rather, might right the drifting ship of our soul. When we make ourselves available for the inflow of [Spirit], we accept not only her generative power but also her ability to [overcome] whatever stands in the way of our full aliveness.
You do not always have to suffer for art. You are not required to sacrifice everything for beauty. The creative life can be quietly gratifying. The thing is to allow ourselves to become a vessel for a work of art to come through and allow that work to guide our hands. Once we do, we are assenting to a sacred adventure. We are saying yes to the transcendent and embodied presence of the holy.
Many of us seem to think we are too “old” to create something “new,” which is really too bad. Although my writing is certainly a creative act, it has been a long time since I have expressed myself freely with color, movement, or sound. If I’m honest, I would probably feel a little silly trying again at my age, but Mirabai’s writing reminds me that I am the poorer for it. What joy, satisfaction, or even embodied presence are we missing out on by our self-consciousness?
Adapted from Mirabai Starr, Wild Mercy: Living the Fierce and Tender Wisdom of the Women Mystics (Sounds True: 2019), 157, 159, 160-161.