Posts Tagged ‘building bridges’

Human Creativity

August 23, 2021

Portions of what follows may be lifted from a recent letter written to a friend, in response to an essay he wrote about a meaning of creativity. Somehow that topic blends with the dilemma I faced upon awakening this morning – what to do with a week of time stripped of its usual structure by the absence of providers I normally see weekly. I do have some commitments throughout the week, but not my “usual” ones. Thus I am both empowered and challenged to be creative with my use of time, especially knowing that in a few weeks there are apt to be substantively more demands fon my time and attention with consequent reduction in fluidity of my schedule.

I am marking a year out from retirement, and remembering how happy and relieved I was, initially, to have unscheduled days, free of deadlines, un-pressured time to do whatever I felt like doing, energy to climb the hill in my driveway 6-8 times at a good pace, or equally to sit on the couch reading all day if I wished to do so. Today I did climb the hill twice already and will do so at least once more, but I know I am not able to complete more trips without feeling a substantial energy drain. I still have the discipline of a year ago, to pursue what needs doing or what I want to accomplish, but I am missing both motivation and a sense of direction as targets for the discipline. All my previous pending and accumulated have to’s are done, management of daily chores now so routine as to not require thought, and want to’s mostly vanished into impossibility due to the curtailment of options imposed by the pandemic.

All that seems to remain with me is a desire to communicate, to engage in an exchange of ideas in order to create a sense of connection despite the emphasis in our larger society on division and unbridgeable difference. Hence my own short essay in response to my friend’s reflections on creativity, and any number of letters recently written to the various NY Times essayists whose columns I follow. Only the outreach to my friend starts a discussion. The other letters serve to clarify my views, but otherwise are written into a void as they are not replied to nor published (with one exception).

The point I made to my friend had to do with the tone of articles about the “new discoveries” being reported lately in unearthed artifacts and in animal studies. Isn’t it just one more example of ego and arrogance, to keep being astonished that earlier versions of humanity could imagine and create, just as we do? No different than the hubris behind amazement that various animals invent and use tools, or that cuttlefish have memory, or that apes exchange hello and goodbye gestures.We present day humans are not at all special except maybe in our arrogance and destructiveness.

I awoke this morning to a gorgeous sky, the sun reflecting through and off of scattered clouds creating a full palette of color. The joy I felt lasted through morning coffee, feeding of chickens, watering the garden and climbing the hill, but has now begun to fade. I do not want to sink into dulled awareness, or a routine plodding through the day. Nor do I want to continue writing into a void.

The biggest threat, according to psychologists, of extended pandemic restrictions is not to our economy but to our mental health. People comment in surprise at the resilience of others who have lived through violence, ongoing war, famine and severe stress like we are seeing in vivid pictures just now from Afghanistan but which are happening in multiple places all the time, just not reported in our press. I suspect that the resilience noted should be no more surprising than the discovery that cuttlefish can learn and remember where to get their preferred food. So long as there is a sense that “we are in this together” and a collective effort to manage the tasks of daily life despite fearsome environmental conditions, people can be resilient.

Wearing masks which hide our faces and limit nonverbal cues we rely on for connection, keeping safe social distance and forgoing hugs, cancelling group activities in the name of staying safe are intended to reflect a concern for all of us being in the pandemic together. The same actions, however, sever our sense of togetherness and connection. While I do not in any way support or condone actions of the objectors to basic public health mandates, I do understand how deeply rooted their unacknowledged motives may be. Verbalized and justified as standing up for individual rights, the resistance is, I think, mostly an expression of the need to remain somehow connected. Yes, the rule breakers exhaust the rest of us, anger us, seem to want us to all sink and die together rather than survive what is morphing into a permanent condition of living. But yes, they also seem – however unconsciously – to be expressing a basic human need for connection, interaction, and the creativity of interpersonal contacts.

In that expression, these people I distinguish myself from are just like me. We seek “call and response” and a collective sense of belonging. We differ in how we manifest that desire. Please, someone, some expert somewhere, or some especially creative thinker, find a way for us all to feel engaged and connected, “heard” and together as we try to learn and adapt to the changed reality we are, collectively, facing.


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