Midnight Chill

This post is formatted to reflect an original journal entry.

12/27/18

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. 

17 thoughts on “Midnight Chill

  1. In response to the different motivations for creativity, where you say one type of creation is ego-driven and one is driven by “issues outside of the self.” Federico Fellini states, “all art is autobiographical. The pearl is the oyster’s autobiography.” Maybe they are just different chapters? I really like the Maslow quote at the top. Also, about the food being a base or foundation upon which higher things are built, where you use your love of cooking in conjunction with the 2nd Maslow quote, I see all things having similar building blocks. Just as you learn basic ingredients and then learn to “elevate” in the term of Gordon Ramsay, so too any endeavor in this world. Just as each of us is imperfect, the crust of the pie is as noble as the meringue on top. Thank you for a very enjoyable read that has inspired me to respond back to it.

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    1. Yes, I borrowed “ego-driven” vs. “problem-centered” from Maslow. And, I do think that all of our art contains both/all of these components at once (what makes it autobiographical). Both Maslow and Rogers discuss creativity within this kind of framework, and Rogers suggests all creative activity is an effort to become oneself. All of these discussions have gotten me thinking about what the different changes, or chapters, in our creative lives can tell us about the functions of creativity more specifically (if anything). As for the food quote, I liked it as soon as I read it. Made me look a little differently at my own behaviors. Thank you for the thoughtful comment.

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      1. Of course. I grapple to make sense of some of these concepts, and while my speculations about the human psyche may be completely off base, I sure do enjoy having a place to share them. Right, wrong, or otherwise. 😉 And thank you for taking the time to read and comment. I enjoy these kinds of discussions.

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  2. I have enjoyed reading this post very much. As I read, what kept coming to mind was that becoming the human being that each of us is is the goal of life. While I was in Madrid last week with Javier visiting his family, I became both frustrated and pleased with myself with how I spoke and behaved during social situations. I was tired most of the time due to jet lag, and at night I sometimes stuttered as I spoke Spanish, and at the same time I noticed that I was spontaneous both with my words and in my behavior, which those around me noticed. In other words, I left Madrid realizing that I had been more fully human during my stay than I had been when I lived there. I was both spontaneous and anxious, which is who I am whether I like it or not. As always, your post has given me much to think about.

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    1. Thank you very much. I’ve noticed that I react to my perceived shortcomings similarly. There are moments in which I need to remind myself simply to be myself. That the aspects of my personality that don’t conform to certain external standards (or even self-imposed expectations) aren’t flaws at all, but simply represent a very real part of my nature (which is advantageous in certain situations, as it is disadvantageous in others). And that I will only continue to fail and/or make myself unhappy if I try to force it to be any other way. I often meditate when I feel like this. It seems as if, when we allow ourselves the freedom to be spontaneous, we really are practicing an attitude of non-judgment…It sounds as if you had an overall pleasant trip. I have not been to Madrid at Christmastime, but I am certain it was beautiful.

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  3. I haven’t mediated much in a while and I think it would help me in such situations. And it feels right to me what you say about practicing an attitude of non-judgment. I did have an overall pleasant trip. I love the feel of Madrid, although the social intensity that I saw, for instance so many people gathering together at bars and restaurants in the evenings and during the day on Christmas Eve, made the introvert in me anxious.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Oh, I love the feel of Madrid, too! And I know what you mean about social intensity. I like to enjoy the bar/cafe scene, also, but when it’s too crowded, it feels like one gigantic assault of the senses. And easily becomes overwhelming. It makes the introvert in me want to crawl under a rock and hide, also. 🙂

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  4. Many thoughts sparked…thank you. Including the desire to dig into creativity and flow states research in the coming year. I have taken for granted that I have experienced that feeling of ease, and not everyone can get there (self actualization pyramid?) And that my most precious memories from the last year were myself and others in their most human moments.

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    1. Yes, I am going to continue on my quest to understand creativity and the heights of human consciousness, also. A volume of Maslow’s unpublished papers, “Future Visions,” is coming up next on my reading list. But you’re right, we often do take these things for granted—moments of ease, spontaneity, enhanced creativity (and I think Maslow would put them higher up on that pyramid, right along with the ability to realize we all can’t get there). Thank you for commenting, and Happy New Year!

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