I am reproducing below a poem I received the other day via e-mail. I subscribe to Panhala on Yahoo Groups as the person running this group posts out an email each day with a poem, a photo and some music. And it’s terrific. I’ve come across poets I never knew existed and some poems just hit the nail for me on particular days, particularly if they’re challenging.
This one turned up when I was pondering the whole question of creativity. Firstly, I came across this video by Someone mentioned that they didn’t feel creative and admired my own creativity. Now this always comes as a great surprise to me as, for most of my life, I felt that I didn’t have a creative or imaginative bone in my body.
In fact, looking back, I could write well all my life. I started writing as a kid, I created newspapers and short stories but, because it was so easy and natural to me, I didn’t associate it with creativity.
Creativity to me was stuff like artwork and music, two areas where I was absolutely pitiful. We’d set out on some project in art class, I’d have a vision in mind but what emerged via the paintbox was truly pathetic. I always say that my art teacher gave me a pass mark (just – 51%) out of sheer pity. Not so with music, the only exam I’ve ever failed. I am tone deaf for a start, but our music teacher assumed an innate understanding of music which left me absolutely baffled. I had no idea what she was talking about, couldn’t make head nor tail of music in E, O or it could be XYZ as far as I was concerned.
I first realised I was creative when I was at a health farm and we were led into a creative visualisation where my images where sharp and clear and appeared so easily, whereas other people struggled with the whole exercise. But it was only when I did a mandala workshop when I was 50 and created a rather lovely mandala and discovered that symbols formed my access gateway to art that I came to the conclusion that I had some shred of creativity in me.
The truth is, of course, that we all have great reserves of creativity and imagination within us, waiting to be tapped and to pour forth. But all too often this is squashed out of us in childhood and in the education system when we are not regarded as individuals but as items on a conveyor belt to be shaped and formed into worthy, unquestioning workers and able-bodied consumers.
Yet even when we’ve had a lifetime of supposedly doing our duty, conforming and all the other crap that society dishes up to hopefully keep you quiet and compliant and not questioning your life, even if that life is arid and wringing your heart and soul dry, that hidden creativity and imagination surfaces if it hasn’t been killed off completely or considered not worthy of being considered creative or imaginative.
These two – creativity and imagination – are not limited to art, writing or music or whatever is considered to be given the accolade of creative work. If you love working with cars or motor bikes, if you are passionate about doing up houses, if you love creating a great environment for children, if you enjoy doodling, if crosswords or Sudoku turn you on, then all these are passions which feed our souls and life our spirits. My husband, for example, loved construction work and was very happy to go to work every day, knowing he was part of creating beautiful high-rise buildings. Our neighbour used to love fiddling with cars. A friend of mine loves cooking for family and friends. It’s about what makes you feel uplifted and living life to the full.
We need to be creative about creativity and what it is. All too often something’s only considered artistic or creative if it’s sold for squillions of dollars. Yet we can be creative when we realise our passion and indulge our passion. Now that’s a word that brings up lots of self-sabotage. Indulge. Because in a society which values the Protestant work ethic, the idea of indulging our inner fantasies and wellspring of ideas and creativity sounds very threatening and self-indulgent.
If we all pursued our passions, then we’d have a far healthier society where people would be so much happier and less stressed. You might see I’m being Utopian yet I see nothing wrong in the vision of a society where people’s creativity is allowed to flourish, where passion isn’t subsumed to the goal of work, work, more work and shopping, shopping and more shopping. If we are all so happy, why are so many of us utterly knackered after work, slumping in front of the TV at night, depressed or addicted to social media, drugs or drink to get a sense of self-esteem? We need to make space and time to sort out what we’re passionate about and DO it!
So this poem really talks to me about how pursuing our passion, whatever it is, can lead us back to being in touch with our wellspring of self-love which is also a wellspring of love for society. Because when you do what delights your heart, you offer something beautiful to the whole of society. You offer your skills and creativity but you also remind people that not everything needs to be machine made. You can craft fantastic work if your heart’s in it and you feel your heart singing as you do what you love. And what you love can be anything: gardening; yoga; dance; reading; painting; fixing boats or cars; making kites; whatever takes your imagination and it doesn’t matter a hoot if the wannabe fashionistas decree something is creative or not. It’s creative if you love what you’re doing and you are happy. Just plain old happy and contented!
I have a brother who builds wooden boats,
Who knows precisely how a board
Can bend or turn, steamed just exactly
Soft enough so he, with help of friends,
Can shape it to the hull.
The knowledge lies as much
Within his sure hands on the plane
As in his head;
It lies in love of wood and grain,
A rough hand resting on the satin
Of the finished deck.
Is there within us each
Such artistry forgotten
In the cruder tasks
The world requires of us,
The faster modern work
That we have
Turned our life to do?
Could we return to more of craft
Within our lives,
And feel the way the grain of wood runs true,
By letting our hands linger
On the product of our artistry?
Could we recall what we have known
But have forgotten,
The gifts within ourselves,
Each other too,
And thus transform a world
As he and friends do,
Shaping steaming oak boards
Upon the hulls of wooden boats?
~ Judy Brown ~
(The Sea Accepts All Rivers & Other Poems)