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?

Happy New Wait A Minute

Happy Epiphany.  January 6.  Wise guys visit Jesus.  12th Day of Christmas.  All of that I get, but the convention of the date is my problem.

First of all, we may have gone “around” the sun in 365.25 days, but the sun moved.  We are nowhere near the same place as this time “last year”.  This spiral arm of the Galaxy moved.  Don’t you remember that crazy day in elementary school when someone delighted in telling you the eight or nine ways we are moving, leaving you queasy!?

I have welcomed the new year watching a ball drop in Times Square, the largest outdoor restroom for a night.  Really, the ball just drops and that means something?  Are you certain marijuana was not legal in New York decades ago?

I have welcomed it on my knees praying at that exact moment when the new year began. 

I have welcomed it asleep, driving, eating in some diner, playing games, with a few hundred screaming teens, and I have welcomed it with just Jill.  My favorite.  Not your business. 

And I have made resolutions, plans, goals with attendant tasks and been moderately successful in them.

But here is my point.  Why at this point in a calendar (don’t get me started on “calendar”) do we have hope for newness?  How did that come to be?  Why not Hannukah, Christmas, Ramadan, or Easter?  Going the other way, why not Halloween or Mardis Gras? 

It is just the first day of January.  Stay with me.

All the other months have a first day, Right?  Why THIS first day of THIS month?

Random.  If you want to compare my work check with the Jews and Chinese for their first days of their new year(s) dates. 

Don’t get depressed and sappy on me, just think about it.  Some very well meaning people chose this day after all their work on their “calendar” as a day to reset the months and days and begin again.  We attached all the rest of our hopes for weight loss, working out, saving, studying more, smoking less, quitting drinking, whatever to this Random Date.

SO, if you have already screwed up, fallen short, blown the resolution — pick another date and start again.  How about tomorrow?  If there is anything Christian in applying grace practically, that would be it.  Why don’t we start our relationship, business plan, forgiveness, kindness, savings again – first thing in the morning?  Any day is as good as some January 1!

There.  See Random can work for you occasionally.  And happy Epiphany. 

The Order is Funny

A couple of nights ago Jill built a fire in the fireplace, and lit it as forty students poured in the house for a Bible Study.  We had Jake’s birthday cake, coffee, and everything else we put on the counter disappeared. Quickly. Ever so quickly.

I laugh at one other point for building a fire in a fireplace with 40 students in the house.  You either build it so hot that no one can sit with their back to it, or you never see it.  If they can stand it, four or five students invariably sit in front of it blocking its heat and sight from everyone else.

Jill’s fire was kind and tepid so that five students absorbed the major brunt of it and three plugged the leaks by sitting on the floor.

The discussions roamed across laughter, silence, a few very quiet moments and deep to deep talking.  We closed with prayers, vacuuming, cleaning, loading the dishwasher, lingering conversations and Jill and I finally squeezed in a walk.

We were greeted by Orion and his steady neighbors in their predictable, immutable places in the heavens and as we walked I smelled someone burning a fire in the fireplace.

As I made out the Seven Sisters, I flashed back to when Jill and I would walk when first married and renting a little two bedroom frame house next to a Love’s Store in Enid, Oklahoma.  It was not the end of the world, but people on their way over to it threw their beer bottles over the fence onto our driveway and back porch.

We walked when cold the most and were enraptured by fireplace’s wafting their aromas out to us, beckoning to a day when we might own a house and it would have a fireplace!

So I laughed, staring at the Seven Sisters and trying to make out Perseus.

The fire I was allowing to send me back to a reverie was my own.

And I remembered that we had a small wish/prayer for those into whose homes we would try to peer or drink deeply of their fireplace wonder on those evenings so long ago: “I hope they are enjoying their little lives in that lovely home.”  Jill’s:  “I hope they are happy!”

Not only was it our fire, but, wonder of all wonders, the people in that house are happy.