This post is formatted to reflect an original journal entry.
Figured it out. What I was working toward on my return flight—the idea that was brewing but on which I hadn’t gained clarity sufficient to write. Returned to Rogers and Maslow. Re-reading them in conjunction with Huxley is illuminating. Also ordered Rogers’s Client-Centered Therapy. A realization: When we act authentically—that is, when we engage with the world holistically—more of our experiences become intrinsically meaningful.
What do I mean by this phrase: engage with the world holistically? When we are fully engaged in the activities of our daily lives cognitively, emotionally, instinctually, intuitively, sensually, etc. Not just operating in one dimension, i.e., only engaging cognitively with intellectual material, but giving equal credence to emotional and instinctual responses, as well. Being a whole person. And respecting and really knowing ourselves as whole persons with our own experiences without placing impersonal, unnecessary, and ineffectual limits on ourselves. Meaning-making isn’t an ascent. Not a top-down, linear-linear-type process, but at once a deepening and expansion of self. This is why I love reading Carl Rogers. Always a breath of fresh air.
But he’s right. He and Maslow on holism. Creativity and being holistically—our full, actualized selves—in the world. In my last post, I referenced Maslow on what he calls self-actualizing creativity (will repeat the quote here for the sake of ease):
I found it necessary to distinguish ‘special talent creativeness’ from ‘self-actualizing (SA) creativeness’ which sprang much more directly from the personality, and which showed itself widely in the affairs of life, for instance, in a certain kind of humor. It looked like a tendency to do anything creatively: e.g., housekeeping, teaching, etc…Such people can see the fresh, the raw, the concrete, the ideographic, as well as the generic, the abstract, the rubricized, the categorized, and the classified. Consequently, they live far more in the real world of nature than in the verbalized world of concepts, abstractions, expectations, beliefs, and stereotypes… – A.H. Maslow
I don’t think it’s the same as special-talent creativity, that which manifests as genius in a particular craft. I think instead that if there is such a thing as basic, or essential, human creativity—a creative inheritance, if you will, that exists in each of us (and I believe there is)—that this is it. Why it’s important: it helps us see in a fresh, non-rubricized way. Helps us step out of enculturated vision and see the world anew. Fresh, awe-inspiring perception, as in a second naïveté. This kind of perception is inherently creative. To my mind, this is poetic perception.
How I know: from my own experience. It was after engaging with my own impetus to create in the way Maslow describes that I began to see the world differently. Once I began engaging more fully in my own life, making everyday activities creative, the activities themselves not only became more meaningful (feeling special, magical, like a gift), but I started experiencing myself differently. Growing in awareness of my inner experiences. And being those experiences has made all the difference.
An important observation: I must maintain these activities—continually infuse them with creativeness—if I am to maintain the shift to a holistic way of seeing and being. They must be habits. That is, I must cook regularly (and ceremonially, with full aesthetic/sensory engagement), exercise, read physical books (I’ve got an aversion to e-books and audiobooks.), listen to records in my creatively decorated space (writing room, which is sacred), even turn cleaning, etc. into something more interesting. It is through these activities that I become a more active participant in my own life. That I reclaim creative power. And if I stop doing them, I lose it. And I lose my ability to see differently, outside the constraints of culture and rubrics, and according to my own subjective experience. Then I once again encounter self and world in predetermined dimensions, instead of really living—engaging in the moments of my life with my whole self (to my mind, the most inherently honest and soulful way of being). Then my creativity—in all its aspects—suffers.
The full subjective richness of an experience seems to come more often to artistically and emotionally sensitive people than to theorizers and intellectuals. It may be that the so-called mystic experience is the perfect and extreme expression of this sort of full appreciation of all the characteristics of the particular phenomenon. – A. H. Maslow
For me, poetry is the ultimate expression of that full subjective richness. Indeed, whenever I read really “heady” books, full of intellectual arguments, logical analyses, etc., I think to myself: My God, I could never do that. I can’t even begin to think in a way that would allow me to write a 500-page argument successfully. And I know it. It would be my natural inclination to attempt condensing the whole thing into 500 words of poetry and be done with the whole affair (if I could). In graduate school, I remember feeling much the same way about term papers that encouraged long, overly intellectual arguments. But I think this is natural for creative people. Maslow also says that creative folks tend to be more efficient perceivers. Maybe that’s one reason we tend to get bored quickly.
So, I’ve answered a number of my own questions. At least for now. On perception, creativity, the role(s) of creativity in becoming oneself. Now, it’s off to the kitchen. It’s beginning to feel like a John Coltrane and spaghetti alla puttanesca kind of night.