Artistry of Life Heals; Living Creatively

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Artistry of Life Heals; Living Creatively

By: Norm and Skye Hirst

UNICEF estimates that the lives of one billion (1,000,000,000) children are at risk due to war, hunger and disease. That is sick! The world is sick. Is it possible to live in a sick world without becoming sick? Can it all be healed? The answer is yes, but first there is much to consider.

We wish we could use the expression “pro-life” as an attitude to hold in shifting away from long held anti-life beliefs. Unfortunately that expression has been co-opted. Much of the disease in our world can be seen as symptoms, crying out, “Pay attention, there is need for correction.” A shift required to bring correction is the recognition that in dealing with life, all life develops from within, not from without. Without awareness of life’s requirements, humankind has imposed rules, laws, ideologies and even well intended fixes only to produce more imbalances against life. Many people act as if power, force and imposition of values and beliefs on others such as the rules of society, religions, governmental policy, or even parenting, can and should fix what’s wrong. However, such beliefs stem from simple material cause and effect thinking. Our leaders have been victims of this lack of awareness as well. Life itself does not work by cause and effect.

Where to look for this new understanding may well be within the artist’s creative process. Any serious artist will tell you the creation process is far from cause and effect. The artist works from the whole self in a series of enactments that may not even be conscious and yet there seems to be a drive from within the artist towards the manifestation of some form. Looking back at the process of creation, the artist may well be able to point out some influences on the process, but rarely can they say what exactly caused what.

Creativity is fundamental to all life. It’s how life manifests. To know the artist’s way is to know living process. Let’s look at some of the organizing principles of life which are now being discovered for the first time which establish requirements for life to function. Consider the following:

  • Living organisms are autonomous. . First, we are born with a fixed identity that functions like a governing self-law of autonomy that guides us as changes occur throughout our lives.
  • Living knowledge develops by enaction. “Enaction” is a new term. Living knowledge or cognition develops by a living entity acting. Reality is not a fixed world with properties to be discovered. It is a changing evolving world. Simply put, it is in process. Living entities act and the world acts back. Thus each living entity, in a co-creative dance with its ecological niche, discovers a world for itself. This process is called enaction.
  • Living entities are self-aware and self motivated. A little appreciated fact is that self-awareness reeks havoc on traditional logic and thinking. Self-awareness actually requires a vibratory oscillating logic within both poles of fundamental contrasts that drive life. Unfortunately awareness of these polar contrasts, such as they are, leads to misuse of them. It is common to think that one pole is superior. Thus one might think it is better to be male than female. It is better to be strong than weak. Such thinking is destructive. Truth is, it is better to be strong or weak as required.

As we speak about what is being discovered about life we are reminded of Native American world views as described by Kenneth Meadows in his book “The Medicine Way”, page 36:

Every part of the physical universe and every living thing on the Earth was seen as having its origins not in the material but in the spiritual and mental, and while in manifestation each was in a state of continuous change.  The whole of Nature and of existence was thus regarded as a ‘coming-into-being’ and a ‘going –out-of-manifestation’ and its essence not material but spiritual and mental.

In contrast, past dominant worldviews of “cause and effect,” “matter only,” “machine like cogs in a wheel” beliefs about the creation of the physical universe make thinking about living processes quite impossible. Machine-like views can only consider that which is incapable of self-action and the focus is then on how to act upon and drive “things” by strict cause and effect cogs-in-a wheel means.

The results are discussions of values so lacking in understanding as to be absurd. It is as if values are nothing more than rules, rules that some folks, in the name of this or that religion or ideologies want to impose on all of us. As we have said in past articles there are three kinds of values. There are systemic values, extrinsic values and intrinsic, being the highest. All three dimensions of value have to be used and harmonized as each situation of life warrants. There are many different kinds of experiences in life. Depending on what is being experienced, it may require very different kinds of attention and judgement. The simplest experiences may come as a sense of “ought.” The only judgement is whether or not “the ought” is true. Next come objects of experience. Here judgements run from bad to good depending on how the object fulfills expectations. Sometimes values are combined. For example something is good or fair, extrinsic value, therefore it ought to cost x dollars in systemic value.

Intrinsic values are unique. Thus they can not be talked about as systemic values can, nor can they fulfill expectations based on experience since they are one of a kind. In life, intrinsic values may be represented in great works of art. And some great works of art are people. Intrinsic values involve a richness of contrasts together in harmony. Since living entities are a richness of contrasts in harmony, they are of intrinsic value. It is intrinsic value that gives us meaning. It is intrinsic value that sets the context from which systemic and extrinsic values must serve and be judged.

By learning to embrace life’s ways, many firmly held convictions are going to be challenged and challenged in a new way. Here we include one example as a beginning. On page 344 of Moral Politics Lakoff quotes from a fundamentalists child-rearing manual “How to Rear Children” by J. Hyles:

Obedience is the foundation for all character.  It is the foundation for the home.  It is the foundation for a school.  It is the foundation for a society.  It is absolutely necessary for law and order to prevail.

However, creativity, not obedience, is the foundation of any living process. There are two natural processes at work that must be accounted for in a living organism that obedience does not allow. The first process is that a living entity inquires through action to find effective acts. An act is effective if it produces the results intended. An artist often begins a painting process with a kind of action and reaction with correction and evaluation all along the way. The second process begins with a growing awareness of coherence conditions that come out of relationships of all kinds. These are minimum conditions connecting us to one another while not unduly limiting our freedom. We grow into beings both unique and social. The artist may experience this coherence as the art piece taking form and coming into clarity, knowing how the contrasts are going to organize themselves.

Preventing these processes from their natural development by trying to enforce obedience can only lead to discontent and violence, or at the very least, bad art. It is often heard today, “oh, it’s just my opinion, everyone is entitled to his/her opinion especially on such matters a child rearing.” However, considering cognition by enaction, individual uniqueness and the vagaries of language, forced obedience is just as impossible as the cow violating gravity by jumping over the moon. No matter what anyone believes, obedience, as a foundation for living, is theoretically impossible. No empirical study has ever found it successful. No one can force an artist to create. The same is true for any life form.

In this nation, there is a concept talked about in the form of “No child will be left behind.” A more appropriate name would be “No child will escape.” There is an attempt to force all into channels of obedience, they neither need nor want until they lose their gifts and their desire to develop into who they were born to be. Cutting funds for art has been one way in which the creative mind in children is being starved.

No one can tell another how to be creative, nor how to live. Through artistry, one cannot help but become self-aware, self-directed and in that, self-knowledge develops. Historically, artistry has often led the way to new visions and possibilities for societal changes. Only deep experience of being alive and sharing that experience with one another in as many ways as is possible can help us heal. Through art, life’s rich diversity of experience can be made manifest and shared beyond words. Life is creative, on-going and ever changing and the ever emerging world views from the artist in us all can help us find this new way. The power of that creativity cannot be stopped.