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The Essence Of Creativity / Pt 3 Openness... It ain’t necessarily the journey,

edited June 6 in Off-topic

Thanks to @michael_m for giving me the idea for this part. I was uncertain as to what I would write and, like with @Stuntman_mikeks comments, the inspiration came from without.

Here’s what Michael said and my response. I’ll take it from there to it’s uncertain conclusion.

“ From martial arts I have learned the value of recognizing that any aspiration is no more than a journey on a path where you have a waypoint in mind. Sometimes you may leave the path in a different direction, or maybe rejoin it at a later stage.

It’s not a destination that we should focus on, but simply the journey itself.

As a friend of mine said many years ago (talking about solo World travel): ‘The hardest part of any journey is buying the ticket.’”

And my response...
“I both agree and disagree with this, Michael. Of course the journey over the destination is the tried and true aphorism and works for most of us, myself included. But, astoundingly, there is a level of mastery of the creative arts that some reach... literally perfection. After that there may be evolution or shifting in the output, but the quality remains the same.... unimproveable. Of course, everyone has bad days. A toothache or a heartache can jostle that perfectness, but the underlying skill/mastery is still there.

I, with necessary modesty and far from perfection, do find perfected aspects of my art that are pretty unfathomable. The biggest is how do I, with severe musical deficiencies (terrible musical memory and a rotten outer ear, for examples) create music as consistently satisfying to listen to (for me) music as I do?
How does it have a breath of originality (IMO) when I have no overarching theoretical musical insight?
And, perhaps, most importantly, how do I sit down, play for five minutes, come up with something that initially sounds like shit and yet can usually transform it, in an intensity of creation, to something that can range from reasonably good to great.... I think it is because I actually have gained access to that creative essence I’m trying to write about.

I've mastered something over sixty years of playing, though it serves itself and not my ego’s guidance...Meaning it’s not really in my control.... and my understanding of music, what normal musicians have, is very incomplete.

In other words, I somehow found a way, like the quadriplegic artist who paints with the brush in his teeth, to create art. I think I tapped into the creative essence that “great” artists... that’s the thinking part. On a feeling (feeling my beingness, not emotions) level,, again, unfathomably... and with the taking up of iOS),
I “feel” that I have arrived. Is it genius Is the skill like Louis Armstrong or Bird... no. In fact, just the opposite.

And that’s what makes the “arrival” so cool. My confidence, on the deepest level... cause it sure isn’t there when I “think” about it, is at destination point. Now, this does not mean I am confident it will continue, cause there is another aspect to creativity parallel to hooking into a creative, or “the” creative source... that’s the will to create... which I won’t go into here.

Anyway, that’s the gist of my contouring of the “it’s the journey” POV. And, gosh darn @michael_m, I have to thank you, cause the heart of my final part 3 essay escaped my thinking mind in what I said above... and that was inspired by your comment.... just as part 2 was inspired by what @Stuntman_mike had to say about the “unexpected”.

In learning Tai Chi I was instructed that there are three elements to success in martial arts, and, by extension, everything.

  1. Talent
  2. Right teaching
  3. Perseverance

Talent is the least of the three... especially in my case. My gifts are truly upsy downsy and would have led nowhere on their own. As I wrote in a play fifty yrs ago: “Talent is like ketchup. It’s nothin’ by itself. You gotta know where to spread it”.

Poor teaching in martial arts can lead to injury and death. I was fortunate, but not all aspiring creators can afford or find a great teacher. My advice is do your best to avoid the bad ones. In music, especially, many gigging musicians turn to teaching for the cash. Teaching is an art and teachers are gifted, affirming and knowledgeable... or not. Check your feeling on what you are hearing in person or online.

Perseverance... well, perseverance is simply practice,

A few words on “feeling”. If there is one thing that must be identified within yourself in order to access the creative source, IMO, it is non-emotional feeling. In martial arts it is feeling the “chi”... the electricity of life. I remember when I first noticed the subtle tingling around 22 when it was pointed out by my tai chi teacher, Wolf Lowenthal... can you imagine a better name for a sensei? He was ardent and he excelled in slowth. The man walked so slowly I could not keep up with him!

So, two decades of my life passed without a glimmer of awareness of the basic frequency of existence. How about you? Do you feel it? When did that happen?

It’s easy to conceptualize cosmic feeling. We are all one, inseparable, feeling or sensing the energy of a tree, that sort of thing... but the relationship between feeling and openness is a bit more involved. It’s only recently that I have plumbed the true depth of that connection.

We all know about relaxation, but, if I’m any example (and I’ve “worked” at it 😳🤣) it doesn’t go very far. True relaxation is more connected with @Daveypoo’s “letting go”. Our resistances to everything around us, beginning with loud noises as infants, and the accompanying muscular seizing, up to learned responses like fear of fire... we just can’t avoid reacting to a hostile and unexpectedly deadly environment. We counter this abuse by “relaxing” with a drink, getting a back rub, sex, taking a vacation. But, these are temporary fixes and don’t get to the heart of it. That’s cause the western modes of relaxation treat the symptoms but don’t get at the root cause.... like fear and breath holding. “Stress” is the catch all for those who work themselves to poor health. “Anxiety” is used for what the mind does with stress and “Existential Terror” is the amygdalian fight or flight response. Coping with these does nothing for openness.

However, there is spiritual “relaxation” and that is one of the gateways to openness. Breathing is intrinsic to that relaxation. There are many avenues to pursue such relaxation as we all know.

Getting in touch with this higher relaxation provides a sense of relief. Questions like “Does it really matter?” are put into perspective. It’s no accident that acupuncture treats blockages and excesses of chi. Getting that chi stabilized allows higher energies to come and go freely, without resistance or getting too excited. That is critical, I believe, to accessing the openness that leads to creative flow.

So what to do? The first and best step is to notice what’s happening with your “feeling”. Gurdjieff was all about our “unconscious” state. Noticing that unconsciousness whenever possible leads to more awareness, Noticing the tension leads to relaxation. Relaxation allows for more attention to breathing. Breathing helps with attaining a higher, spiritual relaxation. And that spiritual relaxation leads to openness (I think... but my feeling “knows”).

The last thing I want to mention is the necessity of will. In the west we say “willpower” which is redundant and coarsens the subtlety of it. We don’t have to will our hearts to beat, that’s Nature’s will. We can force ourselves to do something... like go to work, but that’s not it, either. The “will” to create requires faith and confidence that, no matter what happens, it’s all okay.

Often I don’t emotionally “feel” like making a track. Yet, more often than not I make one anyway. It’s not forcing myself to sit down at the keyboard. Though, at first maybe forcing is necessary... just be conscious it is an artificial technique to get you to a non forceful willing.

It’s more of a hooking into Nature’s will. If you have a creative drive, that drive needs the best fuel to drive it. Force is like fossil fuel, it has toxic byproducts. Nature’s will is like solar power... not as obvious or furious, but avoids the constant explosions that is the modus operandus of the gasoline engine.

It’s all about, IMO, gaining access to the perfect source of energy to power the will to keep creating.
Ultimately, it becomes a circle of reinforcement that energizes a sort of perpetual motion machine within oneself. I have inner confidence and will to create, but that does not mean my mind is not regularly trying to gain control and throw the monkey wrench of doubt into it. There is anxiety, but it does not derail me. The pain is there, I just have learned to kick it in the corner, or simply not pay attention to it.

Eckhart Tolle once noticed a monk peacefully walking down 5th Avenue in New York. Around him a foaming torrent of progress, civilization and anxiety raged in each human droplet. Tolle asked the monk... “what up?” The monk said... “I don’t mind”. If he wasn’t “minding” what was he doing?

I hope this has helped a little, or reminded some of what they already know. I wrote three essays on this forum three years ago about the most important aspects of how to create that Connie Crothers taught me. I will post them as an appendix to these threads. Thanks for the space to talk about this stuff.

One final admonition... Expect the Unexpected! Regards, LL


  • This is my favorite bit:

    Noticing the tension leads to relaxation. Relaxation allows for more attention to breathing. Breathing helps with attaining a higher, spiritual relaxation.

  • @Wrlds2ndBstGeoshredr said:
    This is my favorite bit:

    Noticing the tension leads to relaxation. Relaxation allows for more attention to breathing. Breathing helps with attaining a higher, spiritual relaxation.

    Haha, I should have left it at that!

  • Sounds like you've got a book in you, @LinearLineman - maybe you've found your next calling?

    Would you be able to/willing to coach others in the way Ms. Crothers did with you? Again - maybe another new path forward?

  • @Daveypoo, it would be a short book as that’s about everything I have to say. Teaching... maybe... after a while, with Connie, the teaching stopped. She just listened. That was just as good.

  • Hello!

    I’m a little late for this. I've been happily lurking in these threads for some years except for a few posts to the Song of the Month threads. These 3 posts under the title of The Essence of Creativity by @LinearLineman has got me curious. I could not fully understand the bulk of what the posts were truly trying to convey. However, I have no confusion about the topic at hand.

    "Creativity" is a vastly studied subject with papers and books published on the subject from different fields - psychology, cognitive sciences, sociology, philosophy and so on. I know this because I was curious to learn how one "becomes" creative and looked for answers and found myself in, what could be described as, a labyrinth of information. Experts in these fields have authored much and argued over even more over what makes someone creative. Or what is the essence of creativity even. What process yields most creativity and so on.

    What I found is that, because I am not an expert in any field (that could possibly unravel what creativity is), it is best to try and figure out if, according to my own standards, I am creative or not. Then, optionally, if I throw the fruits of my creativity out there my peers will accept it as being at some level (per their own standards) creative or not.

    But even before that, I thought I must find out where my urge (if one can call it that) to make music came from. Without some driving ‘need’ to create I could not possibly be creative.

    Looking back, it was only in February 2020 that I made any music that could be described as “music” on my ipad. But until then, for over a decade or more, I just felt an urge inside me that wanted to make music. Where did it come from? I do not know. I knew I had music in me that I needed to ‘create’ - if that even makes sense. But I had no idea what the process was nor even what really was music. I just knew some chords (from school days) and that’s about it.

    And that limited knowledge of music was the barrier that was holding me back. So I began learning the basics of music theory starting with the harmonic series is (Leonard Bernstein’s Harvard lectures, thank you) - the relationship between the frequencies that constitute the notes of the western music and so on.

    To put it dramatically; it was as if the universe opened its curtains and revealed a vast sacred truth. My mind was blown by the sheer beauty of what lay in front me and I also knew with absolute certainty, right then, that I had not only broken the barrier down but that I had empowered myself to wield the tools needed for making music. A skill-achievement was unlocked!

    And with that came happiness. I can play a few open chords on a guitar (I have to still count the frets to locate notes), I can play piano but without any hand independence. I don’t practice any instrument like my life depends on it (it doesn’t). None of it matters. What I do is spend time learning more music theory everyday. And with the power of the modern tools on the ipad (and the Mac) I have found the outlet for the creativity in me.

    This process of learning powers my creative output as it had started it. That is simply how it has worked for me. Maybe one day it will run out, but why must I worry about that now? There is no higher level of consciousness that I have to reach - I have the ingredients in me already. I had them for the longest time. I just needed the essence.

    And so there it is. My personal journey and experience tapping into creativity.

    Thank you for reading. :smile:

  • Thanks for your experience @spyrogaia. As I said, there are many ways. My experience is merely one of them. Yours sounds good.

  • edited June 11

    Thanks for these insights @LinearLineman. Finally found enough time to wade through these essays. There's a lot to digest, but I'm truly thankful for the meal. I have practiced qigong and tai chi for over 20 years and never thought to apply it to my playing - so, I'll be looking into this. Apart from accidentally stumbling across a catchy melody or chord progression, I've often found a good starting point is to steal from others to ignite that creative spark. Take a chord progression/riff/rhythm/etc. and run with it - explore, bastardise and alter it enough to make it your own and part of your own readily available musical vocabulary. After all, 'We stand on the shoulders of giants' (Newton, I believe - Isaac, not Wayne). Thanks again.

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