I’ve never been particularly adept at following the kinds of advice offered in self-help books. If I’m going to be honest, I have a hard enough time even finishing them. Let alone imagining myself adhering to a series of complex daily routines, implementing workbooks or invoking the aid of other strategy-making devices, or—God forbid—participating in any activity that requires I make a list. (There is, perhaps, no prospect more contrary to my nature nor repugnant to my sensibilities than that of organizing my day or solving a problem by means of a well-structured list.) Of course, I don’t say this to disparage the tactics of self-help, or self-development, pros. But simply to point out that, while I imagine there are many people who, for a variety of reasons, might benefit from living more regimented, structured, and focused lifestyles, there are surely others with whom this kind of living doesn’t agree. Creative folks, in particular. Those who are open to experience. Aesthetically sensitive and intuitive types. Those who feel most at home and most confident in their abilities to feel their way through life’s up’s and down’s. And to explore their nuances. The divergent thinkers, daydreamers, and visionaries who will not thrive under—but who will flee at the mere suggestion of—any conditions aimed at taming their perceptions, reigning in their vibrant and dynamic, life-giving inner worlds. To make their approach to living more linear.
To be sure, it would seem the key to a more intuitive, creative, and spontaneous approach to living lies in the untaming of our perceptions. A characteristic many creative people seem to possess naturally. And which is, by its nature, resistant to attempts at structure, at being effectively civilized, or as Maslow calls it, “rubricized.” It is a more childlike, more feral kind of vision. To continue to see the world with fresh eyes. To repeatedly look on a familiar object with the same sense of wonder, appreciation, and excitement as if seeing it for the first time. And the capacity to perform simple, everyday activities in an unfamiliar way. To make them novel. Non-scripted. Inventive and inherently fulfilling. Which, to my mind, stems from untamed perception. This is what I believe Maslow meant by “self-actualizing creativity” and what, interestingly, Thoreau refers to as a characteristic of natural intelligence, that which can grasp the “indescribable innocence and beneficence of nature”:
I had this advantage, at least, in my mode of life, over those who were obliged to look abroad for amusement, to society and theatre, that my life itself was become my amusement and never ceased to be novel. It was a drama of many scenes and without an end. If we were always, indeed, getting our living, and regulating our lives according to the last and best mode we had learned, we should never be troubled with ennui. Follow your genius closely enough, and it will not fail to show you a fresh prospect every hour.
– Henry David Thoreau
I do imagine this is how we were meant to see. This remarkably uncivilized perception. The rewards of which need not be tied to money, status, or prestige to have value, but are intrinsically fulfilling. I am reminded also of Maslow’s discussion of “function pleasures,” the equivalent of an unjaded palate, or the recovery of vast, wide-ranging, rudimentary zest for life, rooted in all of the senses:
Stress the unjaded palate of the self-actualizing person, of the peaker = retention of the most basic, biological, body pleasures & sensory pleasures = a kind of versatility = the ability to enjoy the finest wine and Dago red, the finest cheese and local cheddar, great food and meat & potatoes, & even bread & cheese.
– A.H. Maslow
Indeed, the more I consider it, the more I feel this kind of easy, basic human fulfillment is at the crux of the creative life. That is, to live creatively is to recover the innate human capacity to be fulfilled by the tasks of everyday living. No more and no less. Not the ability to write poetry, play music, sculpt, or draw, but the ability to make everyday life extraordinary. Full. As it is meant to be. As it already is. Without attaching anything else to it. I realize this is also the point I was working toward in “On Sensual Living” (I and II). The propensity to de-familiarize. To make everyday activities novel and sensorially engaging. To rely on a unique form of human genius to provide ourselves with fulfillment in the present moment. An incredibly self-reliant way of being.
I have also come to the realization that this is the best way for me to live: if something—situation, environment, or person—detracts from my ability to experience the simple rewards of everyday life, he/she/it is not right for me. This is important. Because it represents a new barometer by which to gauge my actions. To guide my interactions and decision-making. And it is so simple. And simple not to waiver. Anything else would be tantamount to dishonesty. But, that’s it: untamed vision is honest vision. The kind we were born with. I see it now. Perhaps for the first time.