“Creativity is as important as literacy and numeracy, and I actually think people understand that creativity is important – they just don’t understand what it is.” – Ken Robinson
Intuitively, we know the value of creativity. We recognize it when we see it and we celebrate it in its varied forms. But if pressed to describe it, well that’s a little more difficult. There are
hundreds of books on the subject – what creativity is or isn’t and how to get more of it – all adding up to a collective testament to its importance and its elusiveness. People have been speculating on the nature of creativity dating back at least as far as Plato, yet the philosophical tradition didn’t officially take it up as a field of inquiry until the mid-twentieth century. Until then, the nature of creativity was thought to be beyond human comprehension, a divine phenomenon.
So, what is this mysterious energy in our lives that seems to be at the center of everything yet
somehow just beyond our grasp?
- The legendary musician Herbie Hancock said, “Creativity is like magic, it transcends words.”
- The Buddhist philosopher Daisaku Ikeda said, “Art is to the soul as bread is to the body; a
necessity without which it cannot renew itself.”
It is through the playful curiosity and passionate desire of creativity that the soul is fed and grows strong. Breaking through the commonplace to discover the marvelous we enter the world of the heart and soul and it is there that we glimpse our true nature. Creativity is central to our identity as human beings and as individuals. When we are moved to tears by a singer, enchanted by a poem or captivated by a painting we are responding to something that truly is beyond words, a message from the spirit of one human being to another.
- Abdulah Ibrahim, a drummer from Northern Ghana said, “music doesn’t lie.”
I think he meant that music reveals the person playing it in a way that comes before the limitations of words. Creative expression comes from a place that is free from definition and boundaries. It reveals something about who we are in that moment and how it we are connected to everything else.
- Sir Kenneth Robinson said, “Creativity is the process of having original ideas that have
value; it’s a process, it’s not random.”
Using that definition, we could say that life is the ultimate creative process. Life is constantly generating new valuable ideas and we are all one of them. And, we are all authors of, or at least collaborators in, our own creative projects. We are the process of creativity in action. We have a responsibility to honor that process, our true and common nature, by learning to be intimate with it and use it wisely.
In talking about the artistic process, performance artist Marina Abramovic tells a cautionary tale about how the ego and self-aggrandizement kill creativity. When we fall into the narrative of separation and competition we can become enchanted by our cleverness. We can be deluded into thinking that creativity is something we possess and that ours is somehow better or more genuine than that of others. Creativity dies when we misperceive it as something personal and try to use it to prove our worth or superiority. The real value of an original idea is in its relevance to the context in which it was born. Being creative is about being attentive, learning to hear what the present circumstances are suggesting, and then being fluid so that we can respond in a fresh way that lifts us all up.
The source of creativity is in our relationship to ourselves and the world around us. Claiming it
for the ego blocks cuts us off from clear access to the flow off creativity running through
“Being an artist is not a posture or a profession, but a way of being in the world and in relation to yourself.” – Celaya