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Conspire Magazine

The Struggle To Be Who We Are

February 12, 2014

by Rock Castor

“Then God said, ‘Let us make (hu)man in our image.’”

Is it possible one of the ways we are most fashioned in the image of God is in our ability to create? How fascinating that in its very definition, creativity comes from some original, imaginative part of ourselves, unique to who we are.

It is often seen in children; in untempered, imaginative responses calling us to see things in a new light. On a windy summer day, looking out over our swaying woods, a twelve-year-old mystic once asked me, “Rock, what if the trees are servants of God, waving their hands in praise?”

My daughters in their early years would fashion hysterical dramas, falling seamlessly into roles they created for themselves from some wacky place in their brains.

It is this place, this wacky place, this unfettered garden of imagination that is being eroded by a torrent of electronic distraction.

The screen, by its very nature, cannot be original. No matter how imaginative the content, “originality of thought” has come from another. Exposed to this dynamic over an extended period of time, these creative, original places within us begin to wither. We lose touch with one of the most primal and gratifying ways in which we were created.

With this loss comes a confusion of how to construct a Real Life. Virtuality has infused reality to such a degree that the border between the two appears blurry.

A friend of mine took her son and a friend out bowling the other night. She asked her son’s pal if he had bowled before and he responded confidently that yes, he was an experienced expert at bowling. She was surprised when he rolled one ball after another into the gutter until he had to move over to the kiddy lane that had bumper rails to prevent gutter balls.

On the way home, he expressed how much more difficult real bowling was from Wii bowling.

Creating something in actuality invariably proves far more difficult and messy than experiencing something created for you.

My spouse and I run a program where young people are exposed to the gift of working with their hands in carpentry, furniture making, landscaping, and cooking.  It is interesting to watch the ideal sentiment of “creating with your hands” meet the reality of, “OK, we have to dig six 48-inch deep post holes to begin this deck project.” The ability to toil is a necessary ingredient in most of our creative endeavors–whether it be bringing forth music, a poem, a piece of furniture, or a deck.

Struggle is the well-earned yin to the yang of seeing your creation come alive. After the last deck board had been pounded down, it was hilarious to watch the young men dance around the deck they had just minutes ago been sweating and cursing over. One of our students kept saying, “I can’t believe we just built that!!”

Perhaps some new spiritual disciplines might be called for in the electronic culture. Can we take a sabbath from our i-phones, i-pads, screens, games, and TVs for scheduled periods of time to ponder what might be creatively brewing within ourselves?  Can we find that organic place that dances with the spirit of our creator and all of creation?

Can we still the beeps and rings and buzzers to hear the quiet voice reminding us that we are part of that creation process? We are creatures called to create by our very nature. Yet many of us have lost touch with this vital part of ourselves.

The Ignatian Examen asks us what is it that brings us fully alive in the day. It can be a good barometer for the health of our spirits. When we reflect upon that question and find little that stirs our hearts, perhaps it is time to rekindle our creative fires, to give ourselves space, and to seek out community that will nurture the artist, the athlete, the pilgrim, or perhaps the child who just loves jumping in puddles?

When the answer to what brought me life today consistently centers around the screen, it is likely that some disconnect from the creative has occurred. In the reconnection process, remember there will be inertia to overcome–the actual will not be as neat and pretty as the ideal. Getting back on the bike, hiking the Appalachian Trail, picking up the paint brush, pen, or the hammer will involve struggle. But if we accept struggle as a fundamental part of the creative process–we may even learn to embrace it as a tonic for the flaccid soul.

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