Godtalk: The Challenge in Creativity


A Man Painting, an Artist - By Eddie Klaus from unsplash.com

There are three kinds of performers: The first, while singing a song or doing a dance, are making love to themselves. The second, while performing, are making love to the audience. The third, while on stage, are making love to the song, to the dance, to the drama itself.

It's not difficult to discern who the better performer is. The one making love to the song, of course, best honours the song and draws energy from some deeper place.  And he or she does this by entering into and channelling the energy of the song rather than by entering into and channelling their own energy or the energy of the audience. 

What a good artist does, whether that be a singer, a writer, a painter, a dancer, a craftsperson, a carpenter, or a gardener is tap into the deep energies at the heart of things and draw on them to create something that is of God, namely, something that is one, true, good, and beautiful. In the end, and this is true of all good art and all good performance, creativity is not about the person doing the creation. It's about oneness, truth, goodness, and beauty.

This holds true for all creativity and art, and it holds true too for all good teaching, catechesis, preaching, and evangelisation. At the end of the day, it has to be about truth, goodness, beauty, and God, not about oneself or one's audience.

This is important for many reasons. Not least among those reasons is the fact that many of us hesitate to express our creativity for fear that we will be too-amateur and too-unskilled to measure up.  So we don't write poetry, write music, write novels, paint pictures, do sculpture, take up dancing, do carpentry, raise flowers, or do gardening because we fear that what we will produce will be too unprofessional to stand out in any way or to measure up in a way that it can be published or exhibited publicly so as to receive recognition and honour.  So because we cannot do what the great ones do, we mostly hide our creative talents.

We punish ourselves by thinking this way, thinking that if no one will publish it, no sense writing it;  if nobody will buy it, no sense painting it;  if no one will admire it, no sense doing it.  

That's the wrong idea of creativity. We are meant to create things, not because we might get them published and receive honour and money for them.  We are meant to create things because creativity, of all kinds, enters us into the deep centre of energy at the heart of things. In creativity we join ourselves to God's energy and help channel God's transcendental qualities: oneness, truth, goodness, and beauty.

Ultimately, it isn't important that what we do gets publicly recognised, gets published, or earns us a monetary reward. Creativity is its own reward. When we act like God,  we get to feel something of  divine energy.

Moreover, the energy we feel in creativity, no matter how amateur and private the effort, helps still the fires of envy and hostility inside  us. Envy and hostility have to do with frustrated creativity. If we aren't creating something, we're hurting something. If we aren't creative, we soon become bitter. So how do we become creative?

We shouldn't suppress our creative energies because we don't feel particularly inspired, or because no one may take our efforts seriously.  We don’t write, make music, paint and so on to have our efforts admired.  We do it for our souls, to enter a divine dance, to connect ourselves to the heart of things.

Peter Knott SJ