This mask was painted by a man at a mini Burning Man festival in the wilds of New Mexico. He made this mask of himself to wear during a ritual we were going to do. Was he more interested in the meaning of what he was making, or in its being beautiful?
After writing that paragraph, I created a post about meaning and beauty. It was ok, and about how focusing on meaning-making over trying to create beauty is likely to satisfy us more, plus more authentically communicate who we are and where we’re at to others. But then I got struck by another layer of this issue that I want to share with you here.
It’s about the price we have to pay if the ways we express our creativity are to go further into being actually punchy. Think vital, challenging, boat-rocking.
The price of admission is making art - and being creative in our lives - in ways that are edgy, uncomfortable, out of the box, scary, wild. That, in other words, despite our best efforts to not do so, openly reveal and declare the presence and power of our Shadow.
Is being creative in ways that turn to face the the one place that we most want to deny the existence of. Or at least keep secret. The place that, if we can't actually deny it's there, we endlessly try to tame, by letting it out just a little, little bit at a time...
Because the real thing - I mean our real, bottomless human creativity, the blood and bones of who and what we are at root - is not a toy, not a band aid, and very, very rarely pretty. Because out past the suburbs of what we think is the limit of what we can do, is a wilderness. And it's wild, in the wilderness.
The original purpose of our creativity is to wake us up, and that requires getting out of our comfort zones. And in order to go there, we have to take risks. They come in all shapes and sizes. But you know a risk when you meet one, because your heart beats faster and you feel that old tug, that dreaded allure, and you try your “best” to resist it. But hopefully we all fail at that, sooner or later!
One of the prices that come with taking risks is appearing foolish. Is breaking the rules. What rules? Who’s rules? Their rules, our rules. You know, THE rules.
The price is also saying “Fuck it, yes I will!” (like instead of my writing the honorable but milder “Ok then, I will!”)
The price is daring to set out into being the creative, and making the art, that we have long told ourselves we’re not up to - even though we really don’t have a clue (consciously) how to do that.
Ultimately, the price is loving instead of sitting on the fence waiting for permission to be. Or to create.
Because in the end, it’s only when we do this - fall wildly in love with art+life, and so elope with them and our dark, mysterious, dangerous shadow - that our creative processes, projects, disciplines and practices can emerge in unedited trueness, emerge as the catalysts for change that art - real art - is really, and only, really all about.
PS if you haven’t yet seen the address given by the Episcopalian Bishop Michael Curry at Harry and Meghans’ wedding last Saturday, I highly recommend watching it. Now that’s blowing the roof off of a very conservative institution. That’s calling a spade a spade. That’s living creatively. Which when it comes down to it is simply one of the primal ways in which we humans can experience and express Love.
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