Saturday, June 05, 2010

In Search of Creativity

Someone told me that my CV looks like a search, and the question I need to answer for myself is what I am searching for.

The observation stuck. I have 'stepped from plank to plank', indeed. That's my favourite poem - first picked up on an Underground, and now in a very central position of my bookshelves in Emily Dickinson's Collected Poems - which I repeat here:

I stepped from plank to plank
So slow and cautiously;
The stars above my head I felt,
About my feet the sea.

I knew not but the next
Would be my final inch,--
This gave me that precarious gait
Some call experience.

That seems like the story of my life as well. When I tell it, I talk about the 'experience'. I always look for some. I work with a charity for experience, I travelled around on business for experience, I pick up odd projects to enhance my experience, even I exiled myself to expand my experience. This is the point I stress. To all my friends, all those who know me, this seems improbable - are you not supposed to 'settle down' at this stage of life? That's why this search thing comes up.

The question is valid - you are supposed to search for 'something'. But that is quite fundamental. There is an implicit assumption that there is a final answer, one thing to search for. But that is not necessarily the way of the world. There can be other searches. One kind of search is searching for an answer, when the parameters of the question is known. The other possible kind of search is a journey, when the destination is not known, but the rewards of the process is the pleasure of the journey itself. Sometime, I feel my search is of the second kind.

But, I am still pressed for an answer. In my regular, middle class life, such vagueness is not welcome. People live by socially mandated objectives, go through 'stages' and achieve 'what they want'. Life is not to be lived for its own pleasure, unless someone wants to waste it. If you dare to argue that objectives are often misled, stages are not linear but recursive, development is not logical and incremental, but accidental and revolutionary, you are not really fitting to the mould. You are to be cast aside as an idealist, a dreamer or plain crazy. I have earned that label many times in my life; so many times that I have started thinking that it is not a bad thing.

Still, an answer is needed. However much one is distracted by the banality of existence, we owe others an answer. Something that 'makes sense', even if twisted logic is needed to fit you into one of God's accidents. I try various things at various times. When confronted, I usually say that I am not confused, I am just searching. I know more every second than the previous second, and i feel I owe nothing to my own previous self to maintain the status quo. I may not bring a revolution to the world, but I am certainly capable of bringing it in me.

People who know me tells me that I can be deeply frustrating, but I would have pre-warned them as such. It is just that I hate to fit a mould, any mould, even if one I would have ended creating for myself. I find my 'flow' in defeating the mould, in living millions of seconds of revolutionary existence - all within myself.

I must say I am sympathetic to the need of 'theory' in everyday life. If anyone thought theory is only for the academic folk, I shall point out that it is just the opposite. Ordinary men and women live by theories, of moulds, predictions, suppositions, extrapolations, of a general assumption of 'ordinariness'. The way to raise this game and maintain a sentient existence is to question the theories and play this game of defying them. My search is not really a search; it is a game of challenging theories and changing them.

I am at one such moment of 'inflection'. Such moments are when fundamental changes in what I am become visible. This comes as an aggregate of the million-moment revolutions that I effected on myself, but this is a time when it becomes a visible turn, a lurch hitherto unexpected though it was in the works for all this while. This is both an unconscious and a conscious process, both controlled and uncontrollable. This is not something engineered, nor imposed on me. It is best seen as a meeting point of my search with an opportunity window presented by the circumstances, not unlike the meeting point of the negative and positive charge on the atmosphere and sudden creation of lightning which seems to have come down directly from the sky.

For too long, I have lived a life where I gave primacy to responsibilities over creativity. Poetry attracted me; I felt a deep concern for the 'imbalances' around us. But I did not feel empowered to pursue what I liked, nor the courage to step outside the line and to speak my mind. All my life, I have been trying to appear normal, which is a direct contrast to my mental urge to break the mould. I am finally coming the moment when I know the two can not happen together. It is much better to live a reconciled life, even if chequered by failure, than an on-again off-again search for normality and success measured in terms of the number of mortgages I could take out.

To be honest, I live a life on the edge. I have always done so. I have stayed away from my home and family for a long time, and I have started feeling the pain of that distance. While I am emotionally affected, I know that this distance is irreversible and perhaps inevitable. Solitude is terrible and often a punishment; however, it is possible to reconcile with solitude and find freedom and empowerment in it. Sometimes, it sure feels desperate, and I also feel the need of someone standing by, giving a helping hand, letting me exist emotionally; but, I have possibly reached the time to reconcile with the essential loneliness of a conscious existence, and to understand that being lonely is actually the first step of being one with the world.

This is also the first step of being consciously creative. The acceptance of own person/larger world duality in its brutal nakedness is the first step of seeing stories in hitherto neglected places. The silence of one's own life suddenly opens up new conversations with, I dare say, God, or at least with his representatives in hitherto inert objects, not just the TV or this laptop. Suddenly, my car seems to have a persona, and a story to tell. So does the discarded bulb of the third wall light in the absurdly large room I stayed in my childhood. I did not hear it then; I do it now.

Being creative to me is not just seeing what's not there, but more to find things we missed so far. I see cues everywhere, as if someone has set up life as an endless treasure hunt. We keep ourselves amused with the tidbits of everyday busy-ness, but as I see now, when the noise stops, everyone goes away, the great journey must begin afresh.

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How To Live

"Far better it is to dare mighty things, to win glorious triumphs even though checkered by failure, than to rank with those poor spirits who neither enjoy nor suffer much because they live in the grey twilight that knows neither victory nor defeat."

- Theodore Roosevelt

Last Words

We shall not cease from exploration
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time.

- T S Eliot

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