Some time ago, somewhere, I am not sure where exactly, there lived an old woman. She served as the Wisewoman for a small village. One day a friend of hers, a writer from a far-a-way Western country, came for a visit. Each time the friend visited, the Village Wisewoman would teach him a new way of looking at the world. The Village Wisewoman told her friend, “Most of western society thinks that we should believe only what we see. However, in reality the mind works the other way around, meaning we see only what we believe.” The writer asked, “But how can this be?” The Village Wisewoman said “I will show you shortly.” Soon two villagers came to the Village Wisewoman at different times, to ask her for guidance and information about the location of horses. She told each villager that the horses were in a valley near the village, but told one of them that the herd had eight horses, and the other that it had twenty-four. The Village Wisewoman was talking about the same herd at the same valley. At the end of the day the villagers returned with what they had captured. The first villager, since he was told there were only eight horses, believed it to be true. After all, why would the Village Wisewoman lie? He expected to find eight horses, so when he found eight, he stopped looking. The second villager believed that there were twenty-four horses. After all, why would the Village Wisewoman lie? She expected to find twenty-four horses, and kept looking until she found twenty-four horses. The Village Wisewoman’s friend was puzzled with the result, and asked her to elaborate on what seemed to be a manipulative trick. She smiled and said, “We can see only what we think about and imagine. What our mind believes as possible and true, it tends to find and experience in the world. However, in reality and in nature, there is an abundance of possibilities. If we believe and recognize there is an abundance of possibilities then we can experience the world as offering an abundance of opportunities.” (the wisdom and magical power of stories by pejman aghasi)
When you think about seeing or experiencing the world through a creative lens, what pops into your mind’s eye?
Perhaps art by Picasso or Dali or Warhol or Purvis Young comes to mind?
Artists often experience the world in ways that are fairly different from the ways those of us who are not artists do. If I ask you to consider exploring the world through a creative lens, is your first response “I can’t, because I’m not an artist”?
Have you put a box around what creativity looks like and who gets to express it? What might keep you from embracing a creative point of view? What might prevent you from living and moving through the world as someone who identifies as a creative person? Does that sound daunting? Or liberating? Maybe you’d be concerned that you couldn’t function in reality if you viewed the world too differently from the other “regular” people.
I’ve got a secret to tell you—you’re probably already doing it. Almost all of us have put on a creative lens at one time or another. Maybe it’s a new idea of how to cook a certain recipe or creatively place food on a plate so your kids will eat it or a more effective way to repair a sink or toilet, or new way to parent your child. Creativity isn’t always manifest on a canvas or with clay. Creativity often is manifested in the ways we chose to live and move and have our being in the world.
American writer and philosopher Robert Grudin in his book The Grace of Great Things: Creativity and Innovation wrote: “We can no more ‘have’ ideas than ideas ‘have’ us, and indeed the creative process might be simplified if we stopped searching for ideas and simply made room for them to visit. If anything controls or dominates at the moment of inspiration, it is not the mind but the idea, or rather, the suddenly articulated power of our own inner energies. New ideas capture and possess the mind that births them; they colonize it and renew its laws. The expansion of any idea is thus also an expansion of the self.” Grudin suggests that we have to be willing to expand our receptivity to be ready and to make a place for new ideas. We must be willing to be changed by the new idea. Our perspective on whatever we are doing--and perhaps in a broader sense than just the task at hand--may change. And for many of us, change is scary.
I am not a carpenter. And yet, I decided back in 1985 to build a barn-shaped shed in my backyard. I thought all I needed was a hammer, some nails and some wood and I am all set. So I went to Home Depot, told the salesperson that I wanted to build a shed and pointed to the demo already built in front of us. He was happy to help me. He gave me five page of instructions of how to build the shed and told me all the wood would arrive in my driveway in a couple of days. I bought a circular saw, some nails, and a wood-handled hammer as well, and I thought I was ready to go. In a few days the wood was delivered. And so I began, cutting and nailing according to the diagrams. I broke 2 wooden-handled hammers in the process. And hammered an embarrassing number of nails sideways in the wood. And the structure didn’t look exactly like what in the instructions. Fortunately, the person living behind me was a carpenter—though we had never met or even talked to each other before that day. He must have felt very bemused as he watched me try to build that shed. Finally he couldn’t take it any more and came over to tell me I had to start over and that I needed some different tools.
I looked at him as if he were crazy. What was he talking about? Start over. New tools. How hard could building a shed be? I mean I was working on my Master’s degree in psychology, shouldn’t I be able to build a shed? The thing is I couldn’t see what he was seeing—that the structure was not going to be stable if I didn’t start over, that I would break more hammers if I kept using cheap wooden handled hammers, and I needed a nail puller, a tool I had never heard of before, to remove all the nails that were not straight into the wood. And, oh yeah, a leveler. What does this have to do with creativity? In order to be effective in building a shed, I had to see the world through the creative lens of my neighbor the carpenter, not the lens that informed me that I was surely capable of doing this task. I had to be willing to expand my understanding of myself and my abilities to make room for new ideas and I had to change my point of view about what I was doing in order to complete the task—build a shed that was actually, you know, a shed.
I believe all of us have had to go through some version of this process—in school, at work, in relationships—we have had to put on a creative lens to see something differently in order to be effective. And sometimes putting on a creative lens actually takes effort. We have to stop, consider the experience, understand that we see the world through our personal experiences, our prejudices, and through what we have been taught or told. Hopefully through doing this we have learned that our somewhat static personal lens on the world is often limited and not always effective. Even though it’s work there is much to be gained from putting on a creative lens.
Karen Hering, the UU Minister who wrote the book Trusting Change believes we need to keep our creativity fit to be more effective in all that we do, including coping with change. She suggests that we need to regularly allow our creativity “to stretch its legs, run about just for fun or take off on a flight of fancy.” Allowing our creativity to play in the world from time to time hones our ability to be more resilient to change; and as we all know change happens regularly in our lives.
One way to tap into our creativity is the simple exercise we did during the meditation—look through a kaleidoscope. When we see the infinite number of patterns moving before our eye we’re reminded that there is more than one way to experience the world, to see a problem, to achieve a goal or complete a task, or even how to create a piece of art, be it music or paint, found objects or words on a page.
We are going to try another way to put on a different metaphorical creative lens today. How many of you have heard of a silent rave? Please take out your phone. Open up YouTube and find a musician that you like. When the video comes up, after the commercials have passed, pause it. When you have the video cued up, raise your hand. Now lower the volume so that only you can hear it and push play and put the phone up to your ear and dance either in your chair or on your feet.
That, my friends, is one way to exercise your creativity. How did it feel? Did you feel self-conscious? It might be worth asking yourself why. Do you feel energized? Happy? Or did you feel like we should just get back to the sermon? That’s okay, too.
Daydreaming, doodling, creative play—like pretending to be a cat or having a tea party with your child—are other ways to exercise your creativity, which in turn, strengthens your resilience. I hope you do regularly exercise your creativity, without expectation, without producing anything. You will find it easier to put on your creative lens when you need to deal with a problem or project, or work with someone who doesn’t share your point of view, or maybe even paint a picture or create a collage—like we will be doing next week here in this sanctuary. We will create images of our Unitarian Universalist Principles and values, as a group. Our creations will be hung in this sanctuary. By the way I told my mother, who is a painter, about us doing this project next Sunday and she said it wouldn’t work because everyone would want the image to be done their way. I love my mother, but I think she might be wrong about that, because I believe what we can collectively create something that will be a reflection of UU Miami. It will be an exercise in collective creativity; I think it will be amazing.
I offer you one more way of putting on a creative lens. Create a small circle that you can see through by loosely make a fist, crating a keyhole for your eye.
Before looking through your keyhole, look around notice what you see. Now look around through your keyhole. What do you notice within your reduced range of vision when you do this? Maybe some details you hadn’t noticed before? Okay now you can stop. Karen Hering suggests that looking at ourselves and our world as if through a keyhole—focusing in on one small area, one idea, one feeling about a situation-- can give us “new eyes or new ways of perceiving ourselves and our circumstances, freeing ourselves from old tyrannies that have ruled too long. It might be the tyranny of internalized messages about who we are and what we cannot do. Or it could be the subjugation of our true identity and gifts by a world that continually turns us away because of our gender, race, class, age, abilities, religion, orientation. It might be trauma, from our personal experiences or those of our ancestors, binding us with fear in ways that keep us living too small. Any of these, and other forms of confinement, can be broken open” by viewing ourselves through a metaphorical keyhole.
Here is another way to use your keyhole. “Think of a [specific] time when your heart or mind was opened to a greater understanding of yourself, the world, other people. Notice how your body and spirit feels as you linger with that experience. Imagine that feeling spreading throughout your whole being. [As you breath slows]… with each breath, store this feeling in your muscles, your blood, and your bones. When your breathe out, rid yourself of any messages that deny the balm and wholeness of this feeling. Say to yourself, I carry this wholeness with me. What new ways of being and seeing might be possible as I open myself to greater wholeness?”
Seeing the world differently than we normally do day-to-day takes effort and intention. But the gifts and benefits of a holding up a creative lens to the world are innumerable. I hope you make a little time, maybe just a few minutes a day, to look through a kaleidoscope, to dance to music only you can hear, to look at the world through a self-created keyhole, or participate in some form of creative play, to break yourself open, to experience the world differently, to learn new ways of doing things, and new ways to embody the change you seek in the world.