The idea of creativity is one that has fascinated me for many years. It suggests that it is possible for an individual to make some something that is entirely new – something that has never existed before. Creativity may apply to musicians, artists or ordinary human beings. We recognise that an individual is a creator, when, out of the material of paint, clay, music or words , something comes forth, which is an object of wonder, something that has never been seen or even imagined before.
Before my reader gets the idea that creativity only belongs to the gifted and the talented part of the population, I should mention that all of us can be part of this process. Every time a relationship or friendship between two people is formed, there is the potential for it to become something beautiful and expressive of our creativity. The particular involvement in creativity that most of us enjoy is the joy of parenthood. Creativity is involved in the act of becoming parents and also the long demand made on our skills of nurture. There is nothing automatic about being a parent but the successful outcome to the process of rearing a child is a source of true pride, every bit as important at the completed statue or piece of music.
The thing that links every product of human creativity is the fact of its newness. What we have created has never existed before. But we had to cooperate with the act for it to happen. There was nothing inevitable about the act of creation. It demanded of us effort and hard work. We also recognise that it is an act where we express our freedom. We sense that if we had been under any external pressure, the desire to create would in some way have been suppressed. We contrast our acts of creativity with the other parts of our lives where we have to do things, either because other people require us to do them or because they form part of the need to make a living. The fortunate few in society are those who have occupations which allow them to express their creativity and earn a living at the same time. The rest of us have to express our creativity in our free time, in our family life or through our interests and hobbies.
This reflection on creativity brings me back to a verse in the Book of Revelation where the risen Christ states: ‘behold I make all things new’. This verse opens up a variety of potential meanings to the reader. Is he talking about the transformation of the present or is he referring to a change in what is going to happen in the future? As far as I am concerned, the lack of precision in any interpretation of this saying allows it to be one of the most exciting sayings in the entire New Testament. It suggests that Jesus is alongside all of us who are busy uncovering the creativity in our lives whether through art, music or relationships. He is involved with us in the constant newness of the process we call creativity. He not only sees it but encourages it in us. At the same time he is, we believe, involved in the work of newness and transformation of the lives of those who come close to him. We sense that a lifelong attachment to Christ brings us into a deeply creative relationship which is itself a gateway to constant newness, both in terms of what we experience and what we understand.
I have already hinted at a reason why this reflection on creativity links into a blog on Christian abuse. Coercion, compulsion and control are all things that destroy creativity in the same way that they have already destroyed the possibility of experiencing freedom. The loss of freedom is not just about institutions of slavery and the like, it can also be found in any situation where the possibility of newness and the unexpected is denied. There are of course many manifestations of Christianity where the new or the unexpected is seen to be subversive, because such things cannot be controlled. Even the suggestion that is a single interpretation of a passage of scripture removes the possibility of any creativity or freshness of approach. In Britain and the States there is a form of education for children known as ACE (Accelerated Christian education). This style of teaching enables unqualified parents to take their children through a conservative curriculum which requires the child to learn entirely through box-ticking. There is no possibility of having answers that have involved the child in developing the gifts of imagination or lateral thinking. Behind this method proposed by ACE is an entire philosophy that presupposes that the answers are always given. There is never any room for doubt, ambiguity or paradox. Newness is kept out the process of learning. In that world view, devoid of newness and creativity, I see a place which is sterile, lifeless and utterly without any excitement. It is a world that is completely without any attraction and I do not believe that Jesus wants us to go there. By contrast he is inviting us to travel with him to a world where all things are new, everything is in the process of being revealed. These are the things that, as the collect, puts it, pass our understanding.
O God who has prepared for them that love thee such good things as pass man’s understanding; pour into our hearts such love toward thee, that we, loving thee above all things, may obtain thy promises, which exceed all that we can desire.