This post is formatted to reflect an original journal entry.
Winding down this evening by settling back into my writing routine. After a long day, I find it’s best to reconnect by writing longhand in a notebook. Reading Maslow and listening to some newly acquired vinyl. My mind is teeming with thoughts: First, self-actualization is definitely not an unrealistic/unachievable state. Maybe this is so difficult to imagine because we live in such a pervasively sick society. Maslow’s descriptions of self-actualization are remarkably grounded:
…these people are not free of guilt, anxiety, sadness, self-castigation, internal strife, and conflict….What this has taught me I think all of us had better learn. There are no perfect human beings! Persons can be found who are good, very good indeed, in fact, great. There do in fact exist creators, seers, sages, saints, shakers, and movers. This can certainly give us hope for the future of the species even if they are uncommon and do not come by the dozen. And yet these very same people can at times be boring, irritating, petulant, selfish, angry, or depressed. To avoid disillusionment with human nature, we must first give up our illusions about it. – A. H. Maslow
Self-actualization is not the attainment of perfection, but rather, the achievement of a more perfect humanness. Including (and accounting for) all of its imperfections. Always, for Maslow (Rogers, too) goes back to acceptance. Acceptance of reality, self, and others as fundamental to growth/expansion/well-being. An observation: I don’t often notice the degree to which I accept my own imperfections until circumstances bring this issue to my attention. That is, when something happens that I might have, at one time, considered embarrassing or felt wounded by, but can now shrug off with ease. And without trying. (But a lot of this is simply maturity.) Or when I observe another person react to the revelation of his/her own imperfections with volatility, shame, withdrawal, etc. (But occasionally, my knee-jerk response is to do this, too.) This is one of those discreet changes that occurs over time. For me, usually lying just under my proverbial radar. Just beneath the lens. Because I don’t try at it as much as I used to. It just is.
But the same is true of being oneself. It just happens. The most honest expressions of self are the most effortless. Natural and spontaneous. The stuff we don’t see. The absence of conscious striving, all while being conscious of the ease of existence. My mind is drawn to a previous post, I Am TheUsedLife. An example of the periodic frustrations we all experience when we realize we are not doing right by ourselves. Often the little discreet, insidious behaviors (or failures to act) that lead us away from our truest, highest selves. I believe that I am, in a global sense, being myself. But, sometimes I’m not. And, perhaps these little vacillations, the to-and-fro, the not-yet, is a constant state, even for those who might be rightly considered “self-actualized.” Yes, I think so.
Beginning to seriously consider the notion that there really are different types of creativity. Or could be. Despite what Maslow and Rogers say. Though, perhaps, in delineating between special-talent (e.g., artist, writer, musician) creativity and the self-actualizing type (infusing creativity into the activities of daily life), Maslow was touching on something special. Can’t shake the idea that creativity should be studied almost like motivation. Or side-by-side with what motivates it. Rogers would disagree with me, I think. But, I can’t help but notice the differences between creative activity that is ego-centered, whose primary purpose is to communicate one’s own suffering, pain, loss, conflicts, etc., and that which is more problem-centered, or concerned primarily with issues outside the self. Our creative work is always a mixture of both these elements. But, to varying degrees at different times in our lives. I am becoming increasingly interested in how this changes over time. And in what these changes can tell us about the various functions of creativity.
I think Maslow saw something in it. Part of me would like to draw a related hierarchicical-type structure representing creativity, place it side-by-side with Maslow’s pyramid, and trace the parallels. Though, I’m not certain what the thing would look like…Has anyone done this—studied creativity like a a hierarchy? Dynamic? Perhaps, I’ll go incognito at a local university library to search for an answer.
A related observation: Maslow’s got me viewing my love of cooking a little differently. A creative exercise on which the foundation of a higher consciousness is built:
Certainly also food takes a relatively unimportant place in the philosophy of Utopia, in Heaven, in the good life, in the philosophy of values and ethics. It is something basic, to be taken for granted, to be used as a foundation stone upon which higher things are built. [Self-actualizers] are very ready to recognize that the higher things cannot be built until the lower ones are built, but once these lower needs are satisfied, they raced from consciousness, and there is little preoccupation with them. – A. H. Maslow
Except, I would add, for the purposes of aestheticizing oneself. Of transforming the stuff of instinct into art. But that comes later. I hadn’t thought about my self-education in the kitchen as laying the foundation for a more creative kind of living. At least, not as I was doing it. It only felt right. Soulful. A natural inclination. An end in itself. Creativity is also the education of the spirit. Exactly as Maslow says it should be.