This post is formatted to reflect an original journal entry.
The day’s been dark and peaceful. An hour and a half of yoga. Soft jazz. Writing longhand in my notebook while rain pelts the windows and long gusts of wind rumble through the trees. It’s almost time for chamomile tea and a cat in my lap. Looking forward to finishing Maslow’s journals before bed. Now, excited to begin the Memorial Volume of his writings, along with Carl Rogers’s On Becoming a Person. I find that varying my reading materials not only keeps my mind fresh, but also feeds my creativity. I often wonder if other creative types–visual artists and poets, in particular–are inspired by the sciences like I am. Maslow, May, Rank, Jung, Freud–all can be turned to gold. Their empirical statements transformed to art, to the poetics, the rhythms, of daily living. The existentialists/humanists (my natural inclination), in particular.
Brought up this point while discussing creativity with a friend yesterday. The separation of arts and sciences is so unnerving. So unnecessary. (Not sure who makes these decisions.) That discussion had me re-examining Rollo May’s The Courage to Create this afternoon, looking mostly at his thoughts on poetry, in particular, the construction of metaphor as an exercise in meaning-making–a unique and highly personalized redefinition of self and world. I hadn’t thought of it that way myself, and yet, rereading his discussion now, after having done so much of my own metaphoric redefinitions on The Used Life, I understand exactly what he means.
Also fascinating: May’s understanding of creative activity as an encounter, as a confrontation of non-being–of reality, of the silence, of nothingness.
The poet’s labor is to struggle with the meaninglessness and silence of the world until he can force it to mean; until he can make the silence answer and make the non-being be…The greatness of a poem or a painting is not that it portrays the thing observed or experienced, but that it portrays the artist’s or the poet’s vision cued off by his encounter with reality. – Rollo May
I think about this experience as it relates to my own subjectivity. The encounter with reality. The confrontation of silence with only the spark of a vision, an all-consuming desire to create, absent the certainty of what I will bring into being. And the music. The musicality of a poem spontaneously created. That which generates its own internal rhythm, which seems to compose itself from a single flash of inspiration. A fusion. Of reality and the subconscious. Of being and non-being. Soulfulness. Of all that is contained in a singular moment of insight.
Returning to May. He argues that creative individuals must constantly confront anxiety. The anxiety inherent in creation. And, to my mind, that which often comes afterward. Even when we play freely and create with abandon, how many of us still experience brow-beating insecurity? What is this? Is it even any good? Oh, my God, it’s not! It’s the worst poem ever written, EVER! Delete! Delete! Delete! A phenomenon I like to think of as the flinch. I simultaneously love and hate my work. Am proud of it, long for the world to see it, and also want to bury it in the backyard. I think May is right. We confront it. All of the chaos that’s inherent in a single act of creation. And, if we didn’t, how many of us would never write a single word again? The desire to make–that life-giving impulse–is stronger (at least in most of us).
My thoughts come back to metaphor. Aristotle saw metaphorical thinking as the highest, noblest expression of the intellect. I see it always as a fusion of two dimensions. The thing and its essence, it’s potential. It is rare that I look at an object and don’t also see something else. Or, at least, get a powerful enough snapshot of its potential that I must work to understand and name it accordingly. Some of us can’t function (or hate functioning) in only one dimension. It is the ability to perceive a thing, in all of its possibility–often in many directions at once–that makes us unable to tolerate that which is abstract and orderly without wanting to mess it all up. Old problems should always be looked at metaphorically. Growth and innovation in any field depends on it. Additionally, and most importantly, I think it must be impossible for people who don’t think in metaphor to also believe in magic. Because magic always lies in the connections. And people who believe in magic are the most wonderful kind of people.