WHAT IS SPIRITUALITY?
Making Something Genuinely New
human spirits manifest themselves in leaps of creativity,
when something changes within us
that brings a new idea, a new process, or a new object into being.
There is no way to force creativity,
but there are ways to prepare for creative flashes of insight.
The well-prepared mind is able to capture creative flashes when they occur.
I. MOMENTS OF
II. CREATIVITY AS
III. SOURCES AND
WHAT IS SPIRITUALITY?
Making Something Genuinely New
James Leonard Park
I. MOMENTS OF CREATIVITY
act of human
creation takes place when someone
transcends an old way of feeling, perceiving, or thinking
—and brings into being something that has never existed before.
Human beings lived
before someone figured out how to use rocks and sticks for tools.
But once tool-making began, everyone could see the advantages.
All of us have modified
something at least in small ways.
But highly creative people experience leaps of imagination
that bring about entirely new ways of doing or seeing things.
Creativity is often
associated with "the arts",
but science and technology have also seen creative leaps of imagination.
Every form of human endeavor has room for creativity and imagination:
language, cooking, basket-weaving; psychology, sociology, theology;
auto mechanics, computer technology, medical research.
Human creativity seems likely to continue as long as civilization exists.
We can always think of something new.
How does the creative
Normally we travel along in well-worn paths of thought and behavior.
Societies have been known to repeat themselves for generations.
And the lives of many individuals seem devoid of innovation.
there comes a ray of light
that helps someone to see a problem or a situation in a new way.
She or he asks why things should continue in the old patterns.
A new way of approaching a problem pops into someone's head.
Of course, that head must have the prior capacity
to understand the problem—and the solution.
Without a framework of understanding, imaginative flashes will be lost.
I see the process
of writing as a
series of creative moments,
which, if not recorded in words, will disappear forever.
In fact in order to write this chapter, I consulted a small card
on which I had written the following insight when it occurred.
I did not remember it: "Writing is the process
of capturing on paper sparkling moments of insight.
Uncaptured, those moments are gone for ever.
No writer carries in his head everything he or she has written.
Hence his enjoyment in reading his own work."
And another note posted above my typewriter reads:
"One idea leads to another,
but the second will not emerge unless the first is written down."
I think this is the experience of creative people in every field.
Creative flashes come to those who are ready for them
and who know how to preserve and apply such insights.
In creative leaps, the human spirit
If there were no possibility of going beyond what we had before,
there would be nothing fundamentally new.
Like computers, our minds would merely repeat and re-combine
the familiar contents of thought.
Archimedes has just
appeared in my mind,
running naked thru the street.
He had recently been trying to measure the volume of odd-shaped objects.
Stepping into the public bath, he suddenly realized
that the rise in the water level showed the exact size of his body.
This was such a creative flash that without pausing to get his clothes,
he ran home naked shouting "Eureka!" ("I have found it!").
He wanted to apply "Archimedes' Principle", which he had just invented.
Such creative leaps
of the human spirit seem obvious in retrospect,
but somebody had to dream them first.
Benjamin Franklin invented municipal street lights for Philadelphia.
Why hadn't someone thought of public lighting before?
CREATIVITY AS A PROCESS
people have dry spells: Nothing new occurs to them.
Perhaps in these periods they lose touch with their human spirits.
Or they are depressed—pressed down in spirit—so nothing new comes.
The ancients spoke of being inspired by one of the Muses
—friendly spirits subtly guiding the hand of the writer or the painter.
Even our word "inspired" contains the word "spirit".
I see now in the
first draft of this chapter
that I have reached the beginning of the fourth page.
When I stated, I had no idea of what to say.
I was doing other things.
All I had to start from was the chapter title
and two pieces of paper that said essentially the same thing.
Had I been discouraged by the lack of anything to say,
I probably would not have sat down at my typewriter.
But I have a class tonight discussing creativity,
so I have to do some thinking about it,
even if nothing emerges that I will later use in a book or essay.
This shows that
creativity can work in small ways.
The other thing I wrote when planning this series of discussions was:
"making something out of nothing".
There are many 'grind' procedures that we all know for getting results.
Mathematics is an obvious example.
We do not know the solution to the equation when we begin,
but we know that thru a series of steps familiar to us,
we are very likely to discover the correct answer.
But this is not creativity, making something out of nothing.
This is just combining well-known elements in a prescribed way.
Anyone who knows mathematics can do it.
does not mean having nothing to use as materials or precedents.
But an additional element must come 'from nowhere'.
The creative person might not know how new ideas occur.
Perhaps they appear as random possibilities in a well-prepared mind.
If the creative mind knows the problem intimately,
the possible solution will strike a responsive chord.
And that creative insight will be tried immediately.
Another important step
in the creative process
is separating what to keep from what to discard.
Edison had to try many different combinations
before he invented the light bulb or the nickel-cadmium battery.
He knew when to abandon failures, 'bright ideas' that didn't work.
But eventually he did find materials and methods that worked.
(And these have been improved by others ever since.)
A writer or painter
who cannot discard anything
might be creative,
but any flashes of insight might be lost in a mountain of trivia.
Thus some creative people need editors or curators to sort thru their work
to find the parts that are genuinely new and creative.
The rest can be put aside for examination at a later time
—just in case some hidden flashes of spirit were overlooked.
If I had written
the first draft of this chapter
after taking my bike ride around Lake of the Isles,
then something entirely different might have emerged.
That is just the luck of the throw.
I do not control how one idea leads to another.
And I could have written something equally valid at another time.
can be as inspiring as writing.
Most non-fiction books are not very original.
The authors simply re-package and re-interpret ideas created by others,
but once in a while a truly visionary thinker comes along.
Publishers should find ways to recognize such creative spirits.
Otherwise they will keep publishing books similar
to ones that have already proven themselves in the marketplace.
But even uninspired books can stimulate creative minds to new insights.
sort—seems to be its own reward.
When it happens to us, we appreciate the creative moment,
we enjoy exercising our spirits—the wonderful warm life within.
April 24, 2004; revised
several times including 8-22-2007; 10-12-2007; 2-29-2008; 3-28-2008;
5-7-2010; 10-28-2010; 12-4-2010; 3-24-2011; 3-26-2011; 8-9-2012
5. Creativity: Making Something Genuinely New"
was adapted by the author from
Six Capacities of Our Human Spirits
by James Park.
If you click that
title, the complete Table of Contents will appear.
And in 2011, a new book was published,
which included all 8 of the cyber-sermons in this series:
Spirituality without Gods:
Developing Our Capacities of Spirit.
The cyber-sermon about creativity became Chapter 11.
Several others books on
are reviewed on the Existential Spirituality Bibliography .
Return to the Existential Spirituality page
Go to other
cyber-sermons by James Park,
organized into 10 subject-areas.
Return to the beginning of this
An Existential Philosopher's Museum