It is our creative potential that is the image of God.
Whether we are writing, or cooking, or singing, or gardening, or absorbed in an experiment there in the lab, during the time of creativity, we are open to a wider world, where words are clearer, chords sharper, colors brighter, and new angles on old problems come to mind with ease.
As a writer and as someone who preaches, there is a moment that you get to in the writing, or in the preaching, where the words flow on their own, as though they have a mind of their own. You are no longer in control. You are and you’re not in charge. Another force has stepped in. They are your words, but they are smarter and wiser than anything you could have come up with on your own. You don’t have to be a writer to experience this force. Great cooks are possessed by a spirit of their own also. (What we call the Holy Ghost in church circles. LOL) You know intuitively without having to taste the dish you’re cooking that a dash of this or a smidgen of that will have people coming back and asking for seconds. The same applies to creative business types. Where others see sure failure, you see – with some modifications to the design– how the project can be turned into one of success
You are in a zone. The creative zone. Where you glimpse a wider world and touch the outskirts of Transcendence. Tapping into your creative side does that. You get a sense of what it’s like to live beyond your limitations.
We’re all born with a creative side from birth. It’s a birthright from God, and it’s not given just to poets and dancers. Each of us is born with a little artist in us. It’s what it means to be created in the image of God. It explains why we are drawn to certain colors, laugh the way we do, and do things the way we do them. There’s this potential within us to tap into a force that is larger than ourselves to do extraordinary things. Somewhere in growing up, however, we are talked out of our creativity. We become sensible. The creative side goes underground. Worst, it gets misdirected. Rechanneled.
One of my all time favorite lines comes from one of my all time favorite writers, Toni Morrison. Morrison is always writing about creative women, it seems to me, in her novels, especially women who are creative but have little to no outlet for their creativity. ”Artist without art form” is how she describes women like the unconventional Sula Peace in the novel Sula. Sula’s community regards her as evil, bewitched, and a loose woman. But what Sula really is is a smart, gifted, woman with a razor sharp mind who lacks direction and discipline. And as such, she is a woman who is dangerous to herself and to all those she loves.
“In a way, her strangeness, her naivete, her craving for the other half of her equation was the consequence of an idle imagination. Had she paints, or clay or knew the discipline of the dance, or strings: had she anything to engage her tremendous curiosity and her gift for metaphor, she might have exchanged the restlessness and preoccupation with whim for an activity that provided her with all she yearned for And like any artist with no art form, [Sula] became dangerous.”
Everytime I read that line from Sula my mind drifts off to all the girls and women I know who have no creative outlets. Those who never wondered what their minds were capable of beyond remembering the names of old lovers. Those who never learned what else their bodies could do other than to give birth to babies. Those who were never told that their hands were capable of something beyond the mundane tasks of surviving. Without art they have no imagination and are forced to believe in their own limitations. Bereft of any other form for releasing the pent up physical energy inside, they substitute art for screwing, passion for lust. The only zone they know about, if they are lucky, and the one they are a slave to, is sexual ecstasy. It will take years for them to figure out just how counterfeit that is. Sweet, but shortlived.
I had the pleasure of attending two spoken word poetry jam sessions over the past couple weeks. (Lord have mercy on my old soul.) While men dominated the mike for the most part, it was good to see the few young women who came up, take the mike, and strut their floetry. Tattoes on the neck. Rings in the belly button and seared into their tongues. But there they were. Honing their craft. Finding their voice. Speaking their minds. Expressing themselves. Giving birth to unknown sides of themselves. Trying to find their zones. I felt like a dinosaur. A sister from another planet. I could barely understand a word. But I felt the Spirit. And I saw it. Yet another face of God.