Say that a thing exists, and it does. I know of two versions of creation stories in which everything is created by language. There is the Bible, in which God speaks and things happen: “let there be light”. The other that I know is one of the creation stories from ancient Egypt, in which the first of all the gods also creates by speech.
We use the word “create” to mean these incomprehensible theological events and also to mean what we do as humans to make things, such as baskets or operas or skyscrapers. Is it deliberate that we use the same verb for our own activities that we use to decribe the actions of God? Or is it simply that we sense the same idea in both cases, that something begins to exist that was not there before?
It is amazing what we humans have done. Our natural state was to be born naked lying on the ground, like animals. Beginning from that, we have created baskets and operas and skyscrapers. We seem to be driven to create, as if doing so is one of the basic aspects of our existence.
Last Saturday I had the good luck to witness a new creation, an orchestral work by the composer Christopher Theofanidis, a work called Creation/Creator (presented for the first time). To examine the theme of creation, the work used an orchestra, a huge chorus, five solo singers, two actors, two screens of projected words, one screen of projected images, and a few colored scarves. Theofanidis’s work looked at creation both in the religious sense and in the sense of people creating art (with some references to philosophy and physics). Have you ever heard the words of Einstein or Plato being sung?
I’m moved to create through words (when I say “moved” I mean something like being strapped to a cannon ball blasted through the light of day), and I’m also compelled to the point of becoming transfixed by other works of creation: paintings, gardens, movies, music. If we could live in the world of our imagination, I would live in a world of art. Sometimes when I’ve gone to the opera or an art museum, I’ve thought, “Why can’t I live like this? Why do I have to go back to work?” That’s my real world, but I only get to visit once in a while.
However, wanting to experience other people’s creativity and doing your own creation are not quite the same thing, though both experiences may allow us to briefly stick our hands through the dreamwall and touch the other world where we can’t live.
The work I saw last week, Creation/Creator, used quotes from a variety of artists to comment on the need to create, and I’ll add my own comments to that conversation. Lately I’ve been reading Ralph Waldo Emerson, a type of writing that flings multitudes of comets past you. Most of them are simply mysterious and disappear into the darkness, but once in a while you catch one and ride it for a few minutes, surrounded with a brief glow of ideas before you fall off. Perhaps it’s under the influence of Emerson that I’ll make my suggestion about creativity.
In some way, all creation is done for the same reason, as an expression of what our soul is, whatever the “soul” might actually be. We can’t absolutely know the reason we create, because we can’t know the basic nature of the soul. When the soul is allowed to express itself, however, there is color and life and joy—dancing and flower beds and vaulted arches and haiku and fruit pastries. And novels, that’s what I do. The more we allow creativity to flourish, the more the soul of each person is able to express itself, and the more the human race will find itself at home in this illusion of reality that we have to inhabit for now.