Have been perusing Courage to Create over time – reading isn’t the proper word, as at times, I want to zoom over the printed page faster until the author, Rollo May starts saying something that doesn’t seem so obvious.
In beginning of book, he seems to be taking all the time he needs to identify all the notions of creativity that readers might have prior to reading the book, and clarify exactly where in the continuum of concepts-misconceptions, his position is. He even to care to distiguish between the conventional sense of the word “myth” as in “urban myth” or “urban legend” – of something that is not true versus the more cultural sociological sense which he defines as:
“a dramatic presentation of the moral wisom of the race” and something that utilizes the “totality of the senses rather than just the intellect”.
What is interesting in May’s clarification of the components of creativity is largely being borne out by the last decade of research in creativity done by Mihaly Czemitchi…..(long polish name I can never spell without having it in front of me). The iteration of research findings I reviewed a year ago are perhaps more detailed than May’s perspective published for the first time in 1975, but in terms of attempting to identify what it exactly means to activate “creativity” or participate in a creative act, but the fundamental essences seem to be the same.
One correlation is that creativity is simultaneously an act that involves spontenaiety, impulse, and a degree of subconscious thought, but also requires to be objectively and analytically engaged as well. A common misconception is that creativity is the opposite of analysis, or that being creative is to be lost in some sort of spontaneous reverie. It is not. My experience is identical to what May describes, that: “Reason works better when emotions are present” or that the more fully I am connected with my creative center, the more fluently I can utilize my objective analytical processes to further the work in progress.
I also recognise the difficulty in actually describing this experience, as the words “joy” and “ecstasy” may be useful, but are equally applicable to other experiences in the human condition that are not really similar. May defines “joy” to describe an emotion that correlates with a heightened sense of consciousness, the “mood that accompanies the experiences of actualizing one’s own potentialities”. Chinese Buddhist philosophers and scholars have given this human condition its own name “engaku” when describing the various human life conditions. It is one of the “higher” life conditions. Hell, hunger, animality, anger, tranquility, and rapture are the ordinary conditions of life that we experience, depending upon our inner life condition and external influence, without much effort. The higher life conditions require effort to achieve, these being knowledge – the seeking of learning, engaku, bodhisattva, and enlightenment. The life condition of bodhisattva is one when the focus of one’s purpose in life is directed toward the betterment of humanity as a whole, versus only oneself, and enlightenment is the attainment of the understanding of the true nature of life throughout past present and future.
The state of engaku is also sometimes described as partial enlightenment, or the reaching of a moment that is similar to enlightenment, but relates to only a miniscule part of living. One of the effects of five weeks of compressed continual study during the Creative Pulse residence courses, is that one can enter the engaku state and actually live there for an extended period of time. All the classes are interrelated, so even though the student progresses from one activity to another, she isn’t distracted as if in another type of curriculum of moving from geology to philosophy, although those courses do have connections, too. My experience at the Pulse for my first year, was that after a short period of time, I was immersed in it, and although I never “named” it, the engaku, or engaged creative state became predominant, even during the time I was not in class.
I experienced such satisfaction at a deep level, that I have had inner spiritual “tantrums” when now the majority of time in my week seems to demand that I spend it relating in the more ordinary spheres of humanity. I didn’t expect as much need to pursue my drum circle activities or practicing of calligraphy as I did. However, it seems that these two activities are my only connections to my engaku state that I can squeeze in to my more prosaic experience.
Hurricane Jeanne flooded my basement and combined with the damage done last year by Isobel, I am spending most of my time outside of work just in working on my house. I don’t want to be puttying cracks in my basement, I want to be working on my art books, on my sculpture – you name it. My two hours a week at my drum circle and brief bits of time here and there with calligraphy alphabets are the only “food” that I can feed this very hungry part of my soul right now.
In the last month, I have felt almost suffocated, like a crewmember of the Enterprise when encountering the SKin of Evil has become completed encased in a inhibiting constricting shroud. It is not a menacing experience like in the analogy, but the usurpation of one’s life into the potentially endless bog of the necessary minutiae of everyday existence.