Thursday, May 16, 2013

The Sacred Act of Creativity

Have you ever observed someone in the process of creating?

I don't mean appreciating a finished artpiece or even watching a rehearsed performance, although they are inspiring in their own right. But have you witnessed the sacred moments when inward conception becomes outward expression?

A writer pauses between sentences, squints ever so slightly and stares to the upper left.

A painter steps back from their canvas and analyzes shape, color, texture.

A musician sits quietly, attentive to unplayed melodies waiting to be voiced.

A few weeks ago I experienced anew the wonder of the creative act at a performance by The HALO Ensemble's Time Canvas. The concert was a melodic tapestry, weaving together classical and jazz traditions. A cello solo composed by Bach. A guitar and bass improvisation. More Bach. Another improv. Fugues and new ideas flowed in line, informing and enhancing each other.

The entire show quickened my spirit, brought a peace that only art can. Yet it was the improvisations that sent my mind on a thinking adventure.

I have heard in regards to music that silence is as important as sound. I knew this to be true in a new way as I watched a guitarist, violinist, bassist and celloist anticipate their first note. I waited with them and they with me, trusting inspiration would not falter.

The room was full of robust silence. Ached with it. A silence that sits on the edge of its seat, expecting beauty to emerge at any moment, wondering what it will be and when it will begin, but knowing it will.

And out of the longing, yearning silence, the line begins.

Slowly at first.

Anticipation is not yet satisfied as the other voices listen and reply until all are fully engaged. Conception and expression meet, an original creation set forth into time and space.

I know these emotions well, the wellspring of life that accompanies an idea becoming art. I know this moment as an observer and a creator. And I have come to realize these moments emerge from stillness, from spaces set aside for waiting.

The expectancy I feel when listening to live improv is what happens when I settle in to write. The final product is uncertain, but I trust if I show up, the stirring within me, the longing to create, will materialize into something new, maybe even beautiful.

As my mind explores the wonder of creativity I am led to the memory of a conversation with the very guitarist whose improv inspired this post. Full-time students at the time, we has an unclaimed afternoon on our hands and a question before us.

What about humans make them the image of God?

We made suggestions, dismissed some and explored others until we rested temporarily (for we were quite aware of our philosophical limits) on the conclusion that it is humanity's capacity and aspiration to create that reflects the divine.

I wonder, how does our experience of creating compare to God's?

I think it not too unlikely of a picture to imagine God, in his threeness, as a musical ensemble. Each Person with a stringed instrument in hand, pausing, breathing in the silence, the absence, that yearns to be full and alive. Waiting, listening, anticipating what their love will call forth.

And lifting his bow, the Father speaks, "Let us create!" The vibrations of his voice and of the strings hold power that sets stars ablaze, fills the earth with oceans and gives breath to creatures. The Son and the Spirit listen and join in bringing hope, resurrection, power and life with each melodic phrase.

"We do not first get all the answers and then live in light of our understanding. We must rather plunge into life--meeting what we have to meet and experiencing what we have to experience--and in the light of living try to understand. If insight comes at all, it will not be before, but only through and after experience.
-John Claypool
How do you create?

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