The man with the child in his eyes

The subject of creativity fascinates me. I mean, what exactly is creativity, where does it comes from and why do certain people feel such a burning need to express it? For me, it’s an itch that permits me no peace until I finally scratch it and allow whatever’s within me to tumble out into words or images. Where does this urge come from? What’s the basis of this creative fire and why is it stronger in some people than in others? I could spend all day reflecting on this. But for now, I’ll share a short extract from an interview in the Independent with with Kate Bush. I found her comments on creativity fascinating (and I love her new album, by the way!).

“I have a theory that there are still parts of our mental worlds that are still based around the age of between five and eight, and we just kind of pretend to be grown-up,” she explains. “I think our essence is there in a much more powerful way when we’re children, and if you’re lucky enough to be treated reasonably well, and can hang onto who you are, you do have that at your core for the rest of your life. I guess that’s what I meant, really: it’s not that I actually think of myself as a little girl, but she is right in my core.”

[…]

“It may be helpful for some artists to retain that childlike spirit to sustain their creativity, at the risk of appearing ridiculous. Yes, and also, if you’ve been lucky enough, as I was, to have a really lovely childhood, there’s also a base of trust that you work from. Even though as an adult you have to be cautious – you know you can’t go around trusting everything you hear, and so on – but if you have that element of trust it’s very good for the creative spirit. Okay, so you’re going to get beaten up a bit, but it’s so much more preferable to living in a world of suspicion and cynicism, where you’re trying to protect yourself all the time. You may get hurt, but you remain open, and then you can trust again.”

I believe we come into this world pretty much in a state of perfection. I spent some time with a friend’s toddlers a while back and I was amazed at how they were totally at one with everything. Sure, if something displeased them they were quick to object (and why not?), but there was little sense of division between them and the world outside of them. They were in a total state of  openness and wonder about everything around them. I loved that. It’s actually quite infectious!

Of course, it’s not long before the conceptual mind kicks in and we learn to label and compartmentalise our experience of reality. The magic is stripped away as we relate to the world and life solely through the screen of our concepts. When we learn to label a tree as simply ‘a tree’, we no longer truly see the tree, as we rarely move beyond our label of what we think it is. When we think we know things — ‘tree’, ‘sky’, ‘bird’, ‘people’ — we cease to look at things with wonder and curiosity. In fact, all that we ‘know’ are words. Language kind of limits our experience of reality. Of course it’s not a ‘tree’ — tree is just a label we plaster over it. Yet we rarely venture far beyond these linguistic concepts. We rarely stop to gaze around in the world in a total state of bewilderment. We cease looking.

I believe the true creative spirits are those that aren’t entirely imprisoned by this screen of concepts and language. They’re not entirely lost in their heads all the time. I don’t think true creativity comes from the mind and thought anyway, I actually think it arises when there’s a slight space between our thoughts, perhaps what some have called the ‘zen mind’. But that’s another discussion entirely.

I’ve heard it said that life is a journey to rediscover the peace and joy we experienced when we were  very young children. Some kids have this stripped away from them prematurely, due to lack of proper care and love. Others that are lucky enough to have a nurturing and loving family environment are able to hold on to it a little longer. Inevitably as we grow up, we become moulded in the ways of society and we change and grow, leaving behind that childlike innocence and authenticity.

Yet, some people are lucky enough retain a spark of it within them. I think this is the essence of creativity; rediscovering the playful, exuberant, innocent and wondrous child within us. I know this might sound incredibly naive in the cynical world in which we live, but it’s something I’ve found to be true in my experience. The more we’re able to tap into it, the happier and more joyful we feel. And we’re probably a lot more authentic as well. Very young children have an innate sense of authenticity that puts most of us adults to shame!

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