Lately, Creativity

by | 3 Comments | Tags: , , , , , | on Feb15 2012


Something that’s been on my mind lately as the word “Graduation” looms portendingly in the back of my mind (but moving with alarming swiftness to the front) is what, of course, to do after. This question has so consumed me that you can see I’ve chosen to capitalize Graduation, to give it the gravity of Armageddon, or something like it .Christmas is a more comforting example, but I can’t wait for Christmas every year, so that can’t quite be the one.

Where was I? Yes, what to do after. My impulse is romantic: I believe, on good days, that I am destined for happiness in doing what I love, which is creative work. On bad days, my impulse is still romantic, but perhaps in the Romeo and Juliet sense, ending, alas, in tragedy: I am simply not creative enough to be happy doing creative work, so I end up in another career. Alright, so it’s not a complete tragedy; I’m not dead, and I at least have a job. I’ve only had a handful of visions that leave me jobless and maybe one or two that leave me dead. Nevertheless, it’s very within being romantic to consider anything less than perfect worse than nothing at all. The only productive next step is to try and figure out if I’m actually creative or not. To know that, I’d have to find out what creativity is, and then, if not first, I’d have to figure out what I am. One of those, A = B, B = C, A = C things. A = Anand, C = creativity. I would guess many of you have at least once wondered this about yourselves. I’ll spare you my journey in figuring myself out, but C is something it might be worthwhile talking about together.

Here is a case: Recently, I saw Brokeback Mountain, and noted one of the themes: love is not controlled, but controls. This isn’t a moral stance, by the way, which is an important clarification. It’s not as if the film said “It is good to let love control you.” It just said “love controls.” If I wanted to write a story, I thought, I would try to follow in Brokeback’s example and not give it that kind of moral dogmatism; for this is what I felt gave the film its creativity. It’s true that stories can be creative while being dogmatic; this exception is not small, and includes every Disney film and most Pixar films, classics like The Gift of the Magi, and volumes of fairy tales, but that approach to story-telling hardly crosses the Rated-G boundary in film, or the children’s stories section of the library. This doesn’t make them bad, of course. It just makes them different from mature creative work –- creative work like Brokeback that is beautiful for its capture of reality, and for its sympathy for reality, even if reality doesn’t ascribe to certain moral conceptions.

Anyway, during dinner with friends a few days ago a question of ‘moral conceptions’ came up. “Would you marry again if your spouse passed away?” One of my friends who I would say has an especially imposing super-ego answered “no” in all situations, even one posed by my brother in which the spouse was to pass away, tragically, the day after the marriage. No, he would never marry again. I took this with something of a heap of salt, because he doesn’t have any idea what being in a marriage is, and only a taste, so far, of what shared romantic love is. He would probably say at this point, “I’m not choosing not to love again –- I just don’t think I would be capable of it.” While I think he’s still learning the difference between morality and moralism (perhaps I am too), there are places this can go. I don’t immediately empathize with his position, which I feel, while romantic, forgets the importance of a mother figure to his children, and his overall contentedness with life (and thereby his approach to his children). It would have been interesting to ask him what he would have done if his wife, while dying, asked him to marry again. Would he be capable of loving again, having been given permission to do so?

But that’s all beside the point as far as creativity goes, I think. Because once I have my opinion on the issue, I should ask myself, is there any circumstance wherein I would sympathize with him? Can I create a situation that will grey all of the moral conceptions, and make it simply a story of struggle? When someone is hurt, after all, you feel for them. This is a notion beyond conception, and simply is true. Perhaps this is the first cornerstone of creativity –- appealing to the human pathos. How about this: A man like my friend, bereft of his wife, refusing to marry again. He loved his wife, with everything. His very young children mourn at first with him, but as they grow, they see him as a coward –- as selfish, for leaving them without a mother. They leave him, one by one. His friends do, too, because who wants to hang out with someone who never laughs, or smiles, and cries when he’s drunk? So, week after week, year after year, he begins to disappear from the world. No one sees him anymore, at least for what he really is –- in love. No one but, tragically, a lonely woman he prays is watching down from the clouds.

Before he made the choice not to marry again, which is, in this narration, prior to the beginning of the story, we could ask the moral question: should you marry again? The reasons one way or the other would have to do with the overall happiness coming from each path. But once our protagonist has made the choice not to marry, he suffers. At this point there is no more morality to deal with. It doesn’t make it hurt less to know that you deserve the hurt. He realizes he’s hurt his children all these years. He’s hurt. They’re hurt. And now they’re gone and there’s nothing left to do. How would that feel? Whether it’s right or wrong, creativity doesn’t care. It simply embraces the reality of it all, and focuses it, and witnesses it, and presents it in all its definition. I feel that creative work, in this way, inspires love for the stranger. It takes you through the next guy’s path in life. Takes you through his decisions, his consequences, his feelings at the end of it all, and it says, most importantly, that everyone is capable of great suffering, and everyone is capable of great joy, and while morality is eloquent at the forks in the road, it holds, hugs, and comforts during the suffering that is endured — believe it — on every path. That’s what creativity would say. Having imagined all of this, I’m able to empathize with my friend from the very beginning, way before he’s married or has kids. The creativity you employ in imagining his potential story prohibits you from judging or hating him for his choice. It prohibits you from later saying “I told you so.” It instructs you only to listen, and most importantly, to love.

Photo credit: auztin


About Anand Jayanti :
Anand Jayanti is a senior studying Plan II and premedical science. He is the editor of the Reflections section of Nazar. He enjoys creative work, such as playing and composing music, singing, writing short fiction and poetry, screenplaying, and directing. He maintains a happy, faithful relationship with running. For all of these pursuits he takes inspiration from his friends and family.
View all posts by Anand Jayanti
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3 comments

  1. Sumita says:

    Mar 3, 2012

    Reply

    “I feel that creative work, in this way, inspires love for the stranger… his decisions, his consequences, his feelings at the end of it all, and it says, most importantly, that everyone is capable of great suffering, and everyone is capable of great joy, and while morality is eloquent at the forks in the road, it holds, hugs, and comforts during the suffering that is endured — believe it — on every path.” A lovely phrase and a thoughtful article, Anand, thank you. I have a related question: given that so much creativity is engendered by pain, do you ever feel that enjoying creative beauty obscures or sidelines the ugliness of the pain? I think this is a different idea from the morality-vs-creativity argument you’re making, but I could be wrong. I’m thinking, for instance, of the award-winning photograph of a child sitting in a devastated African village, with a vulture waiting nearby for it to die. You could make the argument that the shot was creative, but what a terrible reality that was.

    • Anand says:

      Mar 4, 2012

      Reply

      I don’t think creativity is *engendered* by pain. If it is, it is equally engendered by stasis and by joy. I think that the reason it can come from all of these places is that it doesn’t discriminate. It simply has compassion for all that is observable. I think that when our observation of it results in pride in the artist or awe in the audience, like with that photograph perhaps, the compassion is obscured, which is the goal of creativity. I think it’s nice when a film wins an Oscar, for example, and the director or actor go to the stage and talk about the issue.

      • Anand says:

        Mar 4, 2012

        Reply

        To clarify, when I said “it” in “I think that when our observation of it results in pride in the artist or awe in the audience, like with that photograph perhaps, the compassion is obscured, which is the goal of creativity,” I meant the object of exploration — a person, an event, a relationship, etc.

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