The conflicted individual tends to have a creative mind. It’s often when our experiences involve some challenge or difficulty that we learn the most about ourselves... we have transformative insights, develop inner-strength, and are also inspired to create great works of art. Just as the friction of the bow pulled over taut strings creates music, conflict and tension provide the perfect conditions for the inner-alchemy that is essential for the creative process.
Author and creativity researcher Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi noticed that the artists mind is wired a little differently from everyone else’s, consequently devoting 30 years into researching how creative people live and work. He came to the following conclusion;
“If I had to express in one word what makes their personalities different from others, it’s ‘complexity’. They show tendencies of thought and action that in most people are segregated. They contain contradictory extremes; instead of being an ‘individual’, each of them is a ‘multitude’.” ~ Psychology Today (1996), ‘The Creative Personality’
The poet John Keats had realised the same thing way back in 1817 in a letter to his brothers George and Thomas dated December 21st, when he coined probably the single most intriguing concept of his entire surviving correspondence; one that has been mused-upon at great length by poets and philosophers ever since, even though he only makes mention of it once – ‘Negative Capability’;
“At once it struck me, what quality went to form a Man of Achievement, especially in literature, and which Shakespeare possessed so enormously - I mean Negative Capability, that is when man is capable of being in uncertainties. Mysteries, doubts, without any irritable reaching after fact and reason.”
Interestingly, the word ‘doubt’ originally meant ‘to choose between two things’. These antithetical traits and the ability to simultaneously embrace opposing ideas create the perfect circumstance for ‘bemusement’ (meaning “devoted utterly to the Muses”, as the Pope punned on the word in 1705).
‘The origin of the term is unknown, but some scholars have hypothesized that Keats was influenced in his studies of medicine and chemistry, and that it refers to the negative pole of an electric current which is passive and receptive. In the same way that the negative pole receives the current from the positive pole, the poet receives impulses from a world that is full of mystery and doubt, which cannot be explained but which the poet can translate into art.’ (Wikipedia)
While driving through the countryside yesterday afternoon, the world around me transformed before my very eyes... the trees and grass varying shades of luminescence contrasted by charcoal grey skies. The colours were realer-than-real, creating a dream-like scenario that had an almost psychedelic beauty about it. The moment was charged with a strange, almost fizzy intensity and I intuitively ‘knew’ that something BIG was about to happen – but what?! Was the earth about to undergo a sonic boom of consciousness? Had there been a dimensional shift or galactic wobble?? Was I about to die???! I glanced down at the clock on the dashboard to make a mental note of the time – 3.27pm (probably not accurate) – just in case I needed to record the moment for posterity or something like that. Perhaps something earth-shattering was happening elsewhere on the planet at that very moment that I was unaware of? I was about to find out...
Less than five minutes later, I heard the characteristic low rumbles of thunder. I was quite astraphobic as a child until one stormy night transformed my fear... myself and my little sister had fled into our parents’ bedroom during a particularly severe thunderstorm and were treated to a spectacular hilltop lightshow in the skies above Bath, with running commentary on the different types of lightning by our dad. After that, I became something of an ‘astraphile’; a lover of thunderstorms.
Nature (including us human beings) can be so beautiful and yet so terrifying both at once. Before I’d set out on my journey that day, I had mused upon this very fact and had cried. The paradox is that both polarities are within us and therefore in the world and therefore in us, and so on and so on and so on (ad infinitum)... it’s a perpetual creative cycle of movement – a giant jigsaw puzzle that’s constantly changing at different speeds as each piece falls into place in perfect time; what I refer to in the forthcoming documentary by Cari-Lee Miller, ‘Unveiled and Lifted’ as “...an Infinite Fractal Kaleidoscope of Consciousness”.When untampered with, all life in the natural world – from the microcosmic to the macrocosmic – has an instinctive pull towards (and away from) opposing energetic principles; a cosmic dance, if you will... a flow of 'positively-charged' and 'negatively-charged' energies constantly endeavouring to maintain holistic balance in the universe. Both sunshine and rain, day and night, are needed for all life to flourish... including, and perhaps most especially, the life of an artist.
~ © Karen Sawyer