Sunday, October 9, 2011

The Art of Discovery (Part 2)

I believe that creativity and faith are parallel journeys to be taken.  The Writer of the "Letter to the Hebrews" defined faith this way: "Faith is the evidence (or substance) of things unseen."  There exist eternal things that yet reside in secret and are hidden in darkness— invisible— but nevertheless have a certainty and reality.  That reality is held and ultimately manifest in this physical universe by the exercise of faith.


The action of what many call creativity is a similar (but not identical) work.  Creativity is about apprehending something that has never before been seen or experienced, and bringing it into objective view.  There was a point at which certain symphonies existed only in the heart and mind of Gustav Mahler, and it took his creative action to bring those works into objective existence, where they found resonance in the ears of an audience, and ultimately these sounds, concepts, and emotions flowed down into the hearers' own hearts and minds.

Whether the creative impulse be in the visual arts, literature, drama, music, dance, or whatever, there is this flow of discovery and recovery.  The creative person is first of all a discoverer.  There is a built-in need and desire for adventure.  We want to step out of the comfortable and familiar in order to "see what's out there."  We want to "go where no man has gone before" (according to the Original Crew of the Enterprise).  This entails a very real risk, because there is no guarantee of what we will or won't find.  Sometimes it seems there is absolutely nothing interesting just around the next corner- no gold, no beautiful vista, no new species.  And perhaps this risk is part of what makes it all worth while.

There are many who don't take the risk.  Jesus told a story about a wealthy man who portioned out to his employees certain different sums of money, expecting them to do something useful with the cash, and maybe even earn him a return on the investment.  The man praised those who wisely invested the sums and granted them much more, but he chastised the man who, out of fear of failure, "protected" the money by hiding it away. His portion, although "safe," was taken away from him and given instead to those had stepped out and "risked" a strategy of investment.  Although Jesus was, here, speaking specifically about faith, I believe the point of the story is still well taken concerning creativity.

We who are interested in the work of creating have to be adventurous and risk a strategy of investing our time and efforts and reputations.  There is the possibility that we might either fall short of what we'd hoped for (or what others had hoped for), or we may even come up totally empty.

The discovery itself may be of prime motivation for the artist: the thrill of finding something new and undiscovered can be breathtaking and exhilarating.  And this can be what continues to drive the artist on, and the motivation for searching out even more beautiful vistas.  But there is a second part of the process of creativity that I call recovery.  Once a discovery has been made– once something hidden has been uncovered and brought to light– the discovery can be brought back (recovered) for others, who can now share in the wonder of this new-found thing.  Oftentimes, bringing the created thing back to the community can be an even more powerful experience than the original creative act itself.

Communion (authentic relationship with others) is almost certainly the most significant media of creativity and art.  This bringing back of a new find to others and sharing it with them is actually the sharing of one's self– one's life– with another, and there is where true and lasting creation is to be found.

Those who "create" have a certain kinship and should be able to share something of a common language with those of faith, who trust in and have personal knowledge of the One Who is, in fact, the Creator Himself.
FIRMAMENT, © Bill Brockmeier, all rights reserved by the artist

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