This post was formatted to reflect an original journal entry.
A slow, easy, reflective Sunday. Yoga and some much-needed outdoor time. I can’t wait to go camping. Soon. Have this grand idea of going off the grid for a little while. Heading up into the mountains and losing myself in the stillness. A reclamation of humanity. That’s how I conceive of being outdoors. What it does for me.
A related thought: creativity is also a reclamation of humanity. Spent part of the morning reading Rollo May. A journal article, “The Nature of Creativity,” published in 1959. (As a side note, for those who might be interested, as part of JSTOR’s response to the pandemic, they’re currently offering the public free access to 100 articles.) A thought-provoking read. Much of this material also appears in The Courage to Create. But there was something new that struck me: his thoughts on perception, on the role of emotions, cognitions, even introspective awareness—a whole person kind of vision—which he then links to creativity:
Reason works better when emotions are present, the person sees more acutely, sharply, accurately when his emotions are engaged…I think it can be demonstrated, indeed, that we cannot really see the object unless we have emotional involvement. I commend this to you for further study. – Rollo May
To see creatively is to see as a whole person. Or, rather, to see with the whole person. I love this idea. Reminds me very much of Carl Rogers and his thoughts on the importance of developing and educating the whole person, which I’ve talked about at length before. For May, creativity is also the whole personality in action. It is “suprarational,” bringing “subconscious and unconscious levels in personality,” as well as “intellectual, volitional, and emotional functions into play all together.” And creative ecstasy results from just this kind of harmony. A harmony of the self and a harmony of the senses, in which reason, emotion, experience, and the object are united in the process of artistic transformation.
An uncanny observation. Whenever I am struck by a powerful emotion, be it positive or negative, I often experience an overwhelming urge to create. I’ve long viewed my creativity, in these situations, as a direct means of grappling with the emotion itself. A way of processing, or transmuting, an otherwise unsettling internal state. I imagined my emotions were driving that intensity, or heightening, of consciousness that so often accompanies creative activity–a kind of flow state. And that it wasn’t the nature of the emotion itself (whether I was happy, sad, disappointed, angry) but its intensity that mattered. I think I am right on that last point.
What I hadn’t considered was the possibility that my emotions were intervening in my perceptions. And thereby heightening my experience. Turning up the volume, so to speak. Making me better able to see my environment in full color. That’s the kind of holistic, fresh, and creative vision Maslow talks about:
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
Seeing the world with more sensitive eyes. A raw, innately more human, or un-enculturated kind of vision. The idea that our humanity or humanness is something we are either constantly moving toward or away from. I then have to ask myself, are creative people more keenly aware of their own nature than others? I think so, and it’s because of the way we see. As we discover our own capacities for creativity in daily life, do we then also become more fully human? Yes. My experience tells me so. To become a whole person is also to become a more creative person. To experience the world more acutely. To be be sensorially engaged and more fully alive.