Pain and Beauty

I teach creativity and imagination.  I know, why assign such topics to someone deficient in both?  Go figure.  Eat your heart out, etc.

I require some students to write reports on creators they choose from Daniel Boorstin’s The Creators.  Amazing book, and improbable to be equaled in a generation as he was the Librarian of Congress tapping an astonishing group of researchers to help research and tell the stories.  He achieved lucid, clear, salient story telling at its best.

So questions about creative people lurk in the literature.  Are they more avant-garde, anti social-conformity, rule busting people?  Are they more broken, prone to mind and mood altering substances?  Are they more gifted?

Sixty years ago Guilford showed a scatter graph supporting his “intelligent enough” theory of creativity.   IQ correlates positively with creativity up to @ an IQ of 85, and then any correlation vanishes.  Hmmm.

Creatives come from all manner of socioeconomic, religious and family backgrounds.

Now some research suggests we are “happier” in the left side of our brains, and “sadder” in the right side; and many associate creativity with that right side, although, in truth, when you’re in the creativity “zone”, your brain draws on the left and then the right side some — 300 times a second.

Also, remembering sadness, pain, or loss is easier than joy or happiness: which begs a question.

Do creatives know they live out their lives with more pain, or that creativity is born of pain?  Do we all sense that, and avoid or seek creativity based on a desire or fear of pain?

If you interviewed King David, The Rolling Stones, U2, Coldplay, Hip Hop Kings, Ray Charles and Billie Holiday, Rich Mullins, Michelangelo, and Da Vinci — how do you see them answering, “What percentage of your life have you been “happy” or “joyous”?

Even if their answers suggest beauty is born of pain, art is born of suffering — why seek to create, to innovate, to make art?  That provokes two hard questions for me.

One, did God know His stunning creation, and the people who he made the crowning aspect of that creation would bring Him unfathomable pain?  Why create anyway?

Why do some of the most haunting, intense, overwhelming things of beauty; why do they push us to that pain in the throat, choked tears, impossible to swallow, quivering smile that mimics stunning moments of worship for believers?

Have we been wired for far more than we dare create, hope for, or desire?

We have an artist in residence

Jill’s brother, Steve is staying with us while he does a commissioned painting. 

He has lived his art on Britain’s coast, studied the Masters by leaving college to walk the museums of Europe, obtained recognition from some of the world’s most respected judging boards, and camped and lived in some of the most gorgeous spots on earth.

He lost tallest man in the family this Christmas to one of his nephews, Bjorn; and goes a few rounds with Jill every day about the changing world of art and e-commerce.  Their conversations range from the technical to profound. 

Two things mark our most profound differences.  I am a believer in Christ, and he is not, but he joins in the rhythms of our home and joins hands and is respectfully quiet while others pray.  The more interesting one may be that I have spent much of my life accessible to up to hundreds of people. 

He has spent most of his life privately, guardedly even.

It makes most of our conversations exploratory, tentative, and interesting.  He sees the world in terms of color, light / lighting, mood, composition.  I have never heard him use the word: beautiful.  But make no mistake, he can take up brush and color and capture beauty on a painting almost as much as someone could describe its beauty and convey a feeling about the scene. 

I spent most of my life describing beauty and life to others, making it accessible to them. 

He has caused me to consider again, if I am able some times to pass a beauty through my eyes and writing to others, a reality, a loveliness for someone else to be moved by it — while failing to be as moved as the one to whom I made it accessible. 

I can only hope that Peter Jackson enjoyed the Lord of the Rings a fraction of how much I was moved to tears and cheering, having already enjoyed Tolkien’s descriptions and action like drinking deeply of a innebriating wine. 

So to you and to me, do you enjoy the world you are passing on to your children, again, maybe for the first time?  Are you touched by the Hand of God who moves you to touch others in His Name?  Mother Teresa was bereft of her visions and intimacies which had sustained her when she moved to Calcutta.

Yet she stayed. 

Yet she stayed and milions were moved because of her.  Even while the silence inside dried her soul. 

This is a simple prayer.  May you get to enjoy at least some of the beauty passing through you to others.  If you know how to enlarge that beauty to yourself, share with the rest of us.