Swallowing the Sun
To have the sheer, freakish, human stubbornness to just keep showing up is, indeed, the most important part. I listened to a 20 minute TED talk given by Elizabeth Gilbert. She wrote Eat, Pray, Love. I read this book before to brouhaha and loved it. I actually anticipate her next book even more having listened to this talk. From where does creativity arise? And to whom is our genius assigned? And if we have a transcendent moment, was it of our doing? Do we get credit? If we fail to ever get one again, is it our fault? Is brilliance something one can harness or train? I have this long fascination with creativity and the human psyche. Deep in my medical residency…at the very center of rational, scientific, analytical thinking…I read The House of Percy. I am supposed to be honing my clinical and didactic processing. In my infinite wisdom and to the consternation of my attendings, I detour into this inquisitive curiosity about mental illness, depression, addiction and the creative mind. [Realize, this is the time frame when pharmaceutical companies developed Paxil. And we started treating depression like it was a vitamin deficiency.]
My detour it is fueled by the southern and morbid fascination with tragic writers and poets like Walker Percy. I am living and training in Charleston, SC, so I am steeped in the millieu of southern tragedy. I actually quote this book at grand rounds one Friday, questioning whether we should really be treating depression. And if we treat it, what happens to the creative process. Will we kill great works of art, literature and music? You could have heard a pin drop. I knew that day to keep my fucking mouth shut and not ask rogue questions. I can be a troublemaker and I definitely fall outside the bell curve when it comes to THINKING. But, one of my attendings came to me later and opened this dialogue. It was as if I was an anarchist seeding a rebellion. And from a scientific platform, I was. Of course every single sour mood is depression and need anti-depressant therapy! So much for southern melancholia. So he and I had out dialogue off the record and privately so as to not attract attention. I wouldn’t want my fellow medical professionals to think I was not a “serious doctor”. My dance with this topic has not yet ended. In fact, it was a seed planted in the middle of a wonderful friendship with Janis. And long before the death of her friend Doug Marlette, opened the dialogue about how she writes. How does anyone write? And in the trough between the peak flow of creativity, how does the mind manage the lack of creativity?
For much of my adult life, I ignored my creative mind. Sure, I was crafty. I learned to sew and quilt and can and bake. I mastered the fine arts of home economics. (Ironic that even the minor arts of home making have been converted to some scientific process…so as to teach it). But homemaking is an art. And some do it well and good. Some do it with panache. But the flair for it comes from a creative mind.
And by sheer serendipity, I stumble upon this TED talk. And at 3:40 am I listen to it in my sleepness state. And I hear Ms. Gilbert relate a description of how Ruth Stone wrote her poetry. Her poems came to her like a thunderous entity, barreling across the land at her. She could feel the poem coming at her and she would RUN! She ran to the house hoping to get to paper and pen fast enough so as to catch the poem before it passed through her and on to some other poet. How many of us, when we feel the earth start to rumble from the force of creativity run…but out of FEAR. We try like hell to get out of the way. We fear getting plowed over and decimated. We are not a worthy vector for such force. The physics of creative energy can’t possibly use me as conduit…I am too small, to weak, too insignificant to do it proper, respectful justice. How can I deign to presume I am an appropriate avenue?
Well, long before rational humanism, brilliance and genius were external embodiments. They were forces that simply passed THROUGH and not self-generated. I ADORE this concept. In this paradigm, I am simply a pathway. I am not responsible. It ain’t my fault. It is not of my doing. Therefore, I can’t take blame or credit. I can’t be accused of pride or presumption. I am not prone to get too big for my britches. I am but a flow path. And in physics, we call that the path of least resistance. And the magic happens and the divinity shows up when we stop fighting it. When we stop trying to own it or control it or break it like a wild stallion. And I am in love with this idea that this creative energy flows through me….because I have reached a place where I have less resistance. I am no longer fighting it, thinking I can’t possibly where the force wants to flow. I am ecstatic and grateful that the force pounded away at me until it broke through the damn. And I don’t have to lose my mind or question the source, I do not have to explain how I could have the audacity to think I can write or be creative…..it ain’t my fault. I am just the path of least resistance.