Monday, August 6, 2007

Creativity and Spirituality


by Troy Chapman

We know that certain endeavors, such as painting, writing and other arts, demand creativity and we wouldn’t think much of an artist who didn’t possess and develop this faculty. Yet we often don’t think of creativity as essential to living a spiritual life. In my opinion it is doubly so.

I think it’s impossible to walk a true spiritual path and not be creative. It takes creativity to stand before the mystery and to practice reverence, but also to live our spirituality in the day-to-day world. The simple act of living up to our own spiritual values when the kids are screaming, when someone cuts us off in traffic or when a bureaucrat is rude to us demands creativity.

I’m committed, for instance, to nonviolence and respect and consider them spiritual values. But how do I practice respect and nonviolence (in thought as well as deed) when someone steals from me or mistreats me in some other way? What do I do with thoughts of vengeance and ill-wishing? If I’m not creative, I simply follow these thoughts because they are certainly the path of least resistance and I can pull out all the same old justifications, so I don’t need to think much there. But if I want to do something different than the same old thing, I need to be creative if I’m going to manage it.

The same is true internally. How do I find ways to stop shaming myself? To recognize my own value and stop undermining or beating myself up after the fact? Creativity is about breaking up rigid thinking, which is precisely what’s demanded for the above path.

Creativity is to spirituality what water is to a river: Take it away and you’ve got a giant rut. So this month I want to explore various aspects of creativity in relation to spirituality.

I’ll leave you with the words of one of the most creative thinkers I know of, Rumi:

A baby pigeon stands on the edge of a nest all day.
Then he hears a whistle, Come to me.
How could he not fly toward that?
Wings tear through the body's robe when
a letter arrives that says,
"You've flapped and fluttered against limits
long enough.

You've been a bird without wings
in a house without doors or windows.

Compassion builds a door.
Restlessness cuts a key.

Ask. Step off into air like a baby pigeon.
Strut proudly into sunlight,
not looking back.

Take sips of this pure wine being poured.
Don't mind that you've been given a dirty cup."


Painting by Troy Chapman

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