Creativity Takes Courage and is the Meaning of Life

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Written by Guest Blogger Dr. Marc Hardy

Occasionally a phrase jumps out at me in an “ah ha!” moment and burns itself into my memory. One of those moments happened several weeks ago when I was visiting a good friend in her new home. One of her creative talents is that she has an excellent eye for decorating (a talent I do not have) and I was admiring her taste in color, design and attention to detail when one of those “ah ha!” moments occurred. One decorative piece she had selected was a plaque on a shelf that simply stated, “Creativity Takes Courage.” That short, truthful phrase encompassed profound meaning for me. Appropriately, this thought was attributed to the famous French artist Henri Matisse, who was instrumental in revolutionizing the visual arts as both a painter and sculpture through his creative innovation.

For those of us who have ventured into the deep evaluation of an examined life, we also question the meaning of life. And I have personally come to the realization that our meaning and purpose in life is to create. So the truth that creativity takes courage begs the question “Why?” Why is being creative so intimidating or overwhelming? Why do we often go along with what is instead of creating something that does not exist, something better and original? Why are we afraid to stand out as unconventional, unique, or talented? And the only answer I can conjure up is that we are afraid of what others will think. We are putting the deepest parts of ourselves on display to the world, and that makes us feel vulnerable, fearful of the criticism of our creation. We crave acceptance from others so deeply that we are willing to bury our talents and gifts to “blend in.” In fact, we don’t even realize that we are killing ourselves a little everyday by ignoring the very meaning of life, the soul-affirming act of creativity.

Creating something from nothing, materializing a new reality from our imagination, is our birthright and the igniter of our soul’s purpose. Whether we designate the originator of the universe as God, Yahweh, Allah, Elohim, Jehovah, Brahman, etc., all of these entities are considered the Creator. If we are made in the image of these entities, as most religions claim, we are, at our very core and essence, also creators. If we are not creating, we are repressing the greatest power we have been endowed with as human beings. No other living plant or animal has this amazing ability, and the truth is that imagination and creativity are the reasons for our survival and dominance in the world. When we are in the creative state, we are in flow with our life force. We are immersed in an act that brings us joy, which then inspires others the be courageous and reveal their gifts and talents. In this state of flow we aren’t depressed, we don’t succumb to addiction, we don’t live in the anger of the past or worry about the future. When we create we are living in the moment, what Eckhart Tolle calls the “NOW.” If we are honest with our selves, the anxiety, frustration and fear we experience can directly be attributed to the repression of our creativity.

To be creative, we must engage our imagination and have a vision of a possibility that does not currently exist but can be made real though our efforts. Author and creativity expert Dale Dauten once wrote, “Different is not always better, but better is always different.” We are afraid to be different because we want and need validation through the approval of others. When we create something new and better, we put our creation on display to be criticized and scrutinized. And that hurts – IF our goal is to be admired and accepted by others. But creativity is like breathing, drinking and eating, it is essential for our mental, spiritual, emotional and physical health. To be in denial of this by staying at a job that doesn’t encourage our new ideas, struggling with a family or community culture that discourages self-expression or tolerating people who revel in denigrating others to compensate for their own inadequacies is to sentence ourselves to a slow death of our soul and a loss of the meaning of our life.

So I thank my friend for her design creativity which led to the writing of this missive. Her creativity inspired mine. Being creative can take many forms and doesn’t have to change the world, it simply needs to liberate your talents and gifts. It just needs to make things better and different from what currently exists. Whether it is designing, writing, gardening, woodworking, jewelry-making, performing, singing, teaching, mentoring, painting, being an entrepreneur, songwriting, etc., all of these creative acts manifest realities that did not previously exist. They bring beauty, wisdom and hope to others and offer their own reward in the form of self-actualization. If other people appreciate our creations, that is a bonus, but we are driven to create because it is who we are, and it validates our reason for existence. Indeed, creativity does take courage. But the real risk is not living a meaningful life because of fear. Dare to be different. Instead of letting the world define you, be courageous and use your creativity to define the world.

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