Tag Archives: fear

When Creativity Is On the Line

I was talking to a student today about choosing courses. The student was reluctant to take a more challenging course next year because he didn’t want to do a science research project. After more conversation, he decided that he was terrified that his research project would fail or that he would not have any creative ideas.

The fear he felt looked a lot like the fear of life: we make a committment without knowing the outcome, we are born to be unique without knowing what that looks like, and we are given raw material without the plans (bacause we are the dynamic, living plans). Life can be frightening because nothing guarantees that we will “succeed.”

I felt puzzled while listening to the student – how can one carry so much doubt about having creative ideas? I am always in creative mode: moving, adjusting, reevaluating, researching, asking “what if…”, and ceaselessly reconfiguring my understanding of the questions I want to ask next. But then I remembered that I had similar issues in the past: I worried that I would not have the right answer when I needed to have one ready, or I wouldn’t be able to complete something in time, or whatever I do would not be good enough. I don’t fully remember these feelings now, but I could see their essence through the eyes of this student.

We didn’t talk about life. We talked about ways to approach having creative ideas and allowing ideas to take shape. We talked about looking at work that was done previously, and then saying “What would happen if I changed this…? What would happen if I tried this…?”

Creativity is a billion-dollar subject. People can’t stop talking about innovation to create the “world we can’t even imagine yet” (an overused phrase). In terms of everyday living, such dreams are usually tied into money and profits, which translate to “I can do whatever I want after I make money.

In deeper life terms, spontaneity and creativity are tied into something much more profound than the means to gratify every desire instantly. Creativity is actually about accessing and expressing our true nature, which is flexible, flowing, adept at stitching together bits and pieces into complete creations, and ripping apart old monuments at the right time to make space for change. Creativity does not take any established ideas for granted, and always reevaluates them for how viable they remain.

What we create is a reflection of the art we feel ourselves to be. Both our desire and calling to be creative is a hint that we are more than laborers, or shoppers, or bill-payers. There is something much more magical that unites all of us in the stream of life.

If we believe ourselves to be plastic toy soldiers, popped out of a mould, it may feel safer. Or, we may get behind someone else who seems to know how to move without hesitation – just like when trucks drive behind one another to minimize air resistance. Maybe then we feel like something about life is tried and true and safe.

However, we buy this feeling of safety at a steep cost – our very uniqueness, our self worth, and drawing boundaries around our existence – which we dare never cross. This is what people call a normal life. It is no wonder that highly creative people often stood apart from the crowd, and sometimes stood apart from the mass majority. When these icebreakers owned up to the truth of their being, they no longer fit into the rank and file of society. Their lives were tragic when they cared too much about being out of place, and also made of legend.

To be creative, one has to learn how to play. The toys don’t matter, as long as they help one to express their true nature in new and evolving ways. However, boundless confidence to be creative is not enough without the recognition that we impact the lives of others. Without empathy and compassion, we are mere powertools. Just because we can create many things does not mean that everything should be created.

With power to create comes great responsibility. It is wonderful when our nature is hardwired with kindness. Until we are on automatic, we must take great care to cultivate sensitivity to the big picture of life. If everyone’s creativity spontaneously ignited without the complementary awakening of the heart, humanity would self destruct rather quickly – and in very creative ways!

After our conversation, the student felt hopeful about his ability to try and you could see his creativity begin to move. He has to put himself into action and see the project through to the end. We talked about building something that would benefit others.

He has to experience his ability to live with a situation that does not have a set outcome, and come through with a feeling of knowing himself just a bit more. With each experience, he will learn to recognize when and how to move in life to express his uniqueness within community.

Dispositions for Life

Doubt and gratitude. Avoidance and engagement. Giving and receiving. Fear and love. These are some of the ways we can relate to life, and our life disposition affects the dynamics of our life situations. Whether negative or constructive, our life disposition helps us to feel alive because, at our core, most of us feel that we are not really real. Feeling something intensely brings us a feeling of solidity, and we configure our lives for this rush – not necessarily for the truth.

It was eye-opening for me to learn the phrase “Form is Function” in Anatomy & Physiology. I imagined our body cells as having “hooks” of a certain shape (form) to hook and absorb molecules of a complementary shape (function). The cells that lacked receptors of a certain shape would not engage with certain molecules at all.

I imagined the microscopic world as puzzle pieces that either fit and interacted, or remained unaware of each other. Our life dispositions act as such hooks or filters for our life experiences. In a sense, we form our life view, and that determines how we move or function through life.

I see our bodies as vortices that either attract or repel other vortices. For example, there is a shape to the vortex of doubt. Doubt pulls in energy from others to fortify itself – and not to help a person feel less doubt. Such a person is continuously battling the sensation of losing cohesion and wants to achieve stability: Do they like me? Am I likable? Am I lovable? Does my life have value? Does anything I do have meaning? Maybe that person believes I am not someone others can like or  I can never succeed, and this belief becomes the way that person moves in and perceives the world.

If doubt feels like we will fall apart at any moment, we engage with life to fortify – usually requiring someone else to feed us that I am lovable, or that No one likes or loves me. The irony is that doubt seeks whatever reinforces itself using our beliefs, either positive or negative. Doubt perpetuates only more doubt and warps whatever may disrupt its flow to fit its needs.

We have a choice to see through our life dispositions and choose the ones that are most open-ended, and – thus – closest to clear perception. Love is open-ended and does not relate to life based on past or future fears. Love does not have memory or history. It is uncaused and unbased on prior events. This is confusing to most people – How can one love me after what I said or did? I don’t trust that. To most human beings, love is conditioned.

Post-enlightenment, love sees through temporary limitations to the eternal qualities of each person and begins fresh in each moment.

Imagine that you had a disagreement with someone and strong words were exchanged. Then, that person approaches you with a loving gesture. You recoil. You think it’s manipulation of some sort. So, you restore the conflict to keep your sense of continuity and linear time. You cling to your history, without realizing that love had already moved on.

People are more comfortable in a state of conflict. Even their so-called vulnerable moments are ploys to vampirically suck someone’s life force to fuel themselves. They mistake their cries of hunger for being vulnerable, whereas they are really playing dead to get something. If the food doesn’t come and they are left to starve, anger kicks in and resentment flies in all directions. There is a temporary sense of power. It feels real, but the whole thing is a sham. It would have been much simpler to start fresh in the moment where love is possible. But that requires giving up the need to control.

People cling desperately to what they interpret about life, which may be distorted and twisted. They will defend what they feel to the exclusion of how others fit into the bigger picture. In reality, what matters most is not their position, but their willingness and flexibility to flow towards love instead of continuing friction.

People fear being perceived as weak, and their fear is obvious and transparent. For most, love is an impossible choice unless there have been many gestures to fortify their ego. Love, for such beings, cannot start at any moment and be uncaused – it must be earned by countless gifts. Even if there were countless gifts, these must be recognized and valued by an ego – there is no guarantee that what you give is valued. That is a shadow of love and a sign of limit-clinging nature.

Friction sparks continue to fly as people feed on each other to try to feel whole. But the hole remains, and the hunger is unabated to become the only reality. Until we see through this dynamic, love is impossible. Love will be a diminished version of its full possibility, reduced to the mere stroking of a person’s sense of self. Then, anyone who refuses to play this game must be truly evil. But there is another possibility – the starved are simply stuck in a way of relating and will negate loving gestures because they don’t fit.

To accept such a view would mean certain death to self-absorbed living. Who would be stupid enough to sacrifice the self for love?