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“Man unites himself with the world in the process of creation” (Erich Fromm).
WE’RE BORN INTO A PRE-MADE WORLD, BUT WITHIN THAT WORLD WE HAVE THE ABILITY TO MAKE MANY NEW THINGS OURSELVES. The cynic might say that we can’t make anything really new; we can only do new things with the raw materials that were already here. But what wonderful reorderings of the raw materials we’re capable of! Our creativity is a truly fascinating force.
Because it’s so powerful, our creative urge needs to be carefully managed. Among those who’re seriously involved in creative work, we often hear it said (by artists, musicians, writers, etc.) that the only reason for their work is to allow the creators to “express themselves.” But in a world where we’re all connected to one another, that should never be the case. Not everything that a person might “express” needs to see the light of day, and before I create anything, I need to ask myself the question: will this expression of myself make a positive contribution to those around me or will it pollute them? Will it help or will it hurt?
Our ability to create happens to have a rather serious stewardship attached to it, and in our present culture, there may be some doubt about whether we’re handling that stewardship responsibly. “We live at a time when man believes himself fabulously capable of creation, but he does not know what to create” (José Ortega y Gasset).
When we take a wise approach to the creative act, however, magnificent things can be accomplished. Our creativity can bring a much needed freshness to our own lives and those of others. And not only that, we have it within our power to create things that will continue to do good long after we’re gone from this world. Few of us are going to be remembered by succeeding generations, but the question of what we’re going to leave behind is still significant. We’re at our best when we’re using our creative powers to do lasting good. It doesn’t matter whether the history books are going to give us the credit for it; it only matters that we’ve created something good that will continue to live.
“Creativity is not merely the innocent spontaneity of our youth and childhood; it must also be married to the passion of the adult human being, which is a passion to live beyond one’s death” (Rollo May).