Cultivating Creative Wisdom

Schoolhouse Beach, Washington Island, WI. Photo by the author.

“Creativity causes the soul to rejoice” ~ Meister Eckhart

My New Year’s resolution is to cultivate creativity and compassion to spark more beauty in the world.

I didn’t write nearly as much as I had planned to in 2020, nor did I achieve many of the goals I had envisioned during 2020. There is a lot I can leave behind from 2020. So, in thinking about a new year, and a new start with new goals, cultivating creative wisdom seems like a great one to me.

My blog has been primarily focused on weaving together the journey of becoming a wholehearted human being with the wholeness and teachings of wild nature. To emerge wild by becoming whole in my true self while in tune with the wholeness of the world. The darkness, the light, the suffering, the joy – all of it. Still working on it. It’s the journey of a lifetime!

One topic I have not written much about yet is creativity. In this post, I want to begin to flesh out a sense of creative wisdom and why I plan to focus on it in the new year. Where does it flow from and how might I accrue the type of deeper wisdom to apply it so that my creativity will result in more beauty in the world?

Geologian Thomas Berry believed that creativity is birthed from wildness:

“Wildness we might consider as the root of the authentic spontaneities of any being.  It is that wellspring of creativity whence comes the instinctive activities that enable all living beings to obtain their food, to find shelter, to bring forth their young: to sing and dance and fly through the air and swim through the depths of the sea.  This is the same inner tendency that evokes the insight of the poet, the skill of the artist and the power of the shaman.”

Episcopal priest Matthew Fox says that creativity is the key to our genius and beauty as a species, but also to our capacity for evil. Because of this, we must teach and cultivate the God-like power of creativity to promote love of life (biophilia) and not a love of death (necrophilia).

Meister Eckhart, the 14th century religious mystic believed that creativity emanates directly from the heart of God.

Fox, in his own treatise on creativity from a spiritual understanding concludes that creativity requires a dance between chaos and order. Nature’s patterns show us that at the “edges” of things is where the greatest diversity of life occurs. Such as at the edges between forest and grassland, or land and water, or barrier reef and deep ocean for example.

Charles Jenks writes that: “The universe operates on the edge between order and chaos. This boundary condition, more simply put ‘the edge of chaos,’ is now understood to be the place of maximum complexity and computability, the only place where life and mind can emerge…Everything in nature and culture is pushed toward this creative edge by evolutionary pressure, by natural selection and internal dynamics.”  We are all invited to live at the “creative edge.”

Creativity seems to me to necessitate a willingness to enter into a unique space and experience in time where one allows the imagination to lead, where flexibility and openness to the new and diverse can form a path not traveled before, where the ego of the thinking mind lets go long enough for a kind of unknowing to occur such that room is made of other kinds of knowing. There is a lot here to unpack…but I want to leave a little room in the post for wisdom!

Wisdom. Taking the Wikipedia short cut, there seems to be a pretty good sense of what wisdom might embody:

Wisdom is the ability to bring together one’s knowledge, experience, understanding, common sense, and insights to make decisions from a place of compassion, unbiased judgment and non-attachment with virtues of ethics and benevolence. ~Wikipedia

Our sense of what wisdom is can be a little like the story of the blind men attempting to describe what an elephant “looks” like from their tactile experience of just one part of the elephant. There is a wisdom way of knowing that gathers it all together, yet our Western sense of things from our lopsided intellectual way of seeing puts wisdom into a dark corner. The perfect storm of exponential problems facing humanity and the earth require a re-combining of the various understandings of wisdom traditions where scientific and spiritual traditions collaborate.

Franciscan elder, Richard Rohr and Episcopal priest Cynthia Bourgeault believe that the very seat of wisdom is humility and a ‘sacred groundedness’ – neither of which appear to be very prevalent in our modern Western culture right now.

It has been posited that Socrates was wise primarily because he fostered a great humility about his own knowledge. He understood the limits of what he did know, such that he gave great weight to a knowing of just how much he did not know.

Rohr and Bourgeault relate that: “Wisdom is a way of being—a way of being whole and fully open to a knowing beyond rational thought alone. Do not confuse this kind of knowing as lightweight, saccharine, or ephemeral. The exact opposite is true. To see in such a way requires the hard work of keeping all our inner spaces open—mind, heart, and body—all at once. This is at the center of any authentic spirituality, and it does not happen easily or without paying respectful and non-egoic attention to the moment in front of me and within me.

“A Wisdom way of knowing . . . requires the whole of one’s being and is ultimately attained only through the yielding of one’s whole being into the intimacy of knowing and being known. . .  It doesn’t happen apart from complete vulnerability and self-giving.”

Valerie Kaur believes that: “..deep wisdom resides within each of us. Some call this voice by different sacred names—Spirit, God, Jesus, Allah, Om, Buddha-nature, Waheguru. Others think of this voice as the intuition one hears when in a calm state of mind. . . . Whatever name we choose, listening to our deepest wisdom requires disciplined practice. The loudest voices in the world right now are ones running on the energy of fear, criticism, and cruelty. The voices we spend the most time listening to, in the world and inside our own minds, shape the way we see, how we feel, and what we do.”

Wisdom as word found in published works in the English language from 1800 to the present was at its peak in 1804 with a long slow slide to its lowest ebb during the trickle-down decade of the 1980’s, but has begun to rebound a little in the early part of this century.

In our culture we often extol knowledge as the most virtuous end derived from the means of education. The word wisdom is rarely ever mentioned in higher education or academia. In STEM disciplines especially, wisdom as an explicit goal or even a concept seems to be avoided at all costs, an unwritten rule that the unfettered pursuit of knowledge shall avoid the concept of wisdom. That wisdom lies in some murky realm accessible only by old grey-bearded men wearing loose robes poised in the lotus position at the top of treacherous mountains. Or, maybe worse, an undiscussed and damaging belief that only the rare scientist like Einstein can have access to and use creative wisdom. That it is a trait you are born with – either you have it or you don’t, and only a precious few are likely to have it.

Yet, if we take our cultural blinders off, it becomes clear that each person does have a core of wisdom that includes their full intersectionality: their accrued experience, background, knowledge, gender identification, citizenship, ethnicity, race, sexual orientation, age, geographic history, religious and spiritual insights, work skills, and socio-economic status. It seems critical that we (all of us, but especially those with privilege and authority) make sure there are multiple spaces and pathways to participate where individuals can bring their own full creative wisdom to share in collaboration with others.

So, as a start wisdom entails getting one’s mind, heart, and body to work as one. The rational mind alone does not lead to and cannot hold the power of wisdom. The seat of wisdom is humility, but also is nondual, let’s go of ego, is completely present and inclusive, at its essence is love, and also hope, requires solitude, detachment, honesty, confession, forgiveness, self-knowledge, and contemplative and compassionate behaviors.

There is a lot to unpack here as well…the pattern in common with both creativity and wisdom is that they both emerge primarily out of the heart, not from the head.

That’s all for now. In the meantime, I will be seeking and on the lookout for those creative edges in nature and myself.

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