This post has been formatted to reflect an original journal entry.
I’ve been so focused on Seven Road for the past few weeks, I’ve barely done any reading. Except occasional poetry. That required for intermittent study, inspiration, and inducing a more melodic state of mind. The poem, in its entirety, was such a soulful endeavor. It took all of me. Reflects so much of me. A thought: the most profound creative experiences are those that make me feel as if I am channeling something. One of the deepest forms of satisfaction. And one of the reasons I view creative activity as an homage to life. Makes me feel I’ve reached (or at least approximated) the depths of myself somehow.
A thought: why do some of us feel we are expressing ourselves most genuinely, most fully, when we are engaged in the process of creating other worlds? Alternate realities? For me, it always appears like the necessity to aestheticize an otherwise one-dimensional experience. An act of creative criticism. To reinterpret or enhance a set of ideas, an external reality. To give them feeling. But also a matter of praise, homage, or gratitude. All art is also criticism. And I vastly prefer–even when I am negatively critiquing through my poetry that which displeases or incites me–to be motivated, first, by promoting what I love. By making beautiful that which brings me joy. I find I lack the motivation and ability to create well negatively. That is, to be driven by the need to condemn a person or idea. To destroy. Negative critique is always, in my mind, secondary. A byproduct of promoting what I value–and very often a necessary and intentional one. But it’s never the driver. And I don’t think I’d want it to be.
Indeed, even the simple act of renaming a phenomenon I find displeasing contains a cathartic–and decidedly positive-feeling–element for me as a poet. Like Salt Lick. I’ve never thought about this before. A re-envisioning of the negative aspects of our reality. Or changing my relationship with them. Yes. Choosing just the right metaphor and the right presentation on the page can change everything. Can remake the whole aesthetic surrounding a concrete, real world experience. A radically different kind of vision.
Makes me think of both Maslow and Rogers. Their respective ideas about constructive, or growth-oriented, creativity versus that which is primarily destructive or need-focused. Rogers identifies three components of constructive creativity: openness to the range of one’s inner experience, an internal locus for evaluating the merits of one’s creative activities, and a sense of playfulness:
The mainspring of creativity appears to be the same tendency which we discover so deeply as the curative force in psychotherapy—man’s tendency to actualize himself, to become his potentialities…It is this tendency which is the primary motivation for creativity as the organism forms new relationships to the environment in its endeavor to most fully be itself. – Carl R. Rogers
But, so much of this centers on an impetus to aestheticize reality. To create positive transformations. Encounters. (Would my own experience as discussed above be considered a constructive use of creativity per Rogers?) Learned more about this—especially as it relates to the everyday—from Maslow’s discussion of non-motivated behavior. That which is expressive. Spontaneous, reflexive assertions of character. As opposed to that which reflects a coping with environmental demands. More interesting: his suggestion that the act of placing intentional controls, or limits, on self-expression represents a more elevated, more holistic, more versatile way of being. Self-control is often a creative exercise.
There are several meanings of self-control, or of inhibition, and some of them are quite desirable and healthy, even apart from what is necessary for dealing with the outside world. Control need not mean frustration or renunciation of basic need gratifications. What I would call the ‘Apollonizing controls’ do not call the gratification needs into question at all; they make them more rather than less enjoyable by e.g., suitable delay (as in sex), by gracefulness (as in dancing or swimming), by estheticizing (as with food and drink), by stylizing (as in sonnets), by ceremonializing, sacralizing, dignifying, by doing something well rather than just doing it. – A. H. Maslow
But, I’ve discussed my own experience with this manner of self-control at length. And one that I find to be a great deal of fun. Artful. At once childlike and awe-inspiring. Aestheticizing oneself. Translating into action the poetic aspects of our lives. The stylization of animal needs. An integral component of the art of personality. That is, the point at which taste and personality intersect.
And a light-hearted endeavor. Very much akin to playing. A pinnacle, for me, in self-care. And representative of one of the highest forms of human creativity. I don’t just do nice things for myself, I craft myself into someone who is pleasing. By internal standards. The last part–inner direction–is essential. For Maslow, too. As are the standards–aesthetic and otherwise–according to which one chooses to fashion oneself. Pursuit of the highest values–truth, beauty, wisdom, etc.–representing the highest form of being. I believe this is a big part of what he means when he refers to self-control, here, as a matter of “doing something well rather than just doing it.” I would agree.
It all makes sense now. Self-fashioning. The femininity experiment. Designing my feelings. It was really about becoming more a person. More fully human. More me. Becoming aware of, acknowledging, and embracing more of my capacities. And they come back to me changed. “Sacralized,” as Maslow would say. Dignified. Integrated. Balanced. In this case, the achievement of balance is also the restoration of sanctity. I see it now. Echoes of May, Peterson, and Rogers. Each expressing the same or similar sentiments in his own way.
A striking thought: the “Apollonizing controls” Maslow speaks of are, in my experience, critical to ceremony. To the experience of depth in personal rituals. Of the kind that I consider religious (with a lowercase “r,” in the informal sense). Like creating a pleasing aesthetic around a simple task (as in preparing a meal). Those that hinge on encountering the miraculous in everyday life. But, Maslow’s already talked about the experience of little miracles–of discovering the magic of one’s own being—as a matter of perception.
Fascinating: all of this, even the perceptual component, hinges on understanding certain aspects of our emotional lives–needs for love, affection, esteem, etc.—as instinctual (weak instincts, instinct remnants, or “instinctoid,” as Maslow calls them). At the highest levels of being, I create out of my basic needs. Now, I feel as if I have a great deal more reading to do.