Saturday, January 4, 2014

Creativity and sub-creation: a ramble through the junk house of my brain

I spent some time thinking idly this morning - always a dangerous activity!  Yesterday I watched a video interview of Sir Ken Robinson in France - he spoke in English with French sub-titles.

Here it is:  Créativité avec Sir Ken Robinson

I don't intend to engage with his ideas on creativity here, but simply to note as a cultural historian that  'creativity' is an interesting concept to engage with in the study of religion.  Dr. Robinson [notice my segue into Brit style determination to use proper titles!  To go off on a wild tangent - I recall in the early 70s,  English newspapers referring to Fidel Castro as Dr. Castro because he had an honorary doctorate...]  Anyway.... I don't intend to engage with his contention that every human is creative, but that our schools squash that over time.  What I do intend to engage with is that some people are indeed creative in different ways.

I am not either, going to get into the debate over creativity in terms of Catholic vs. Protestant - Weber has fierce and pointed critics enough here.  But, this morning I was mentally caressing the Robinson video and up popped Martin Luther into my mind.  He was religiously creative.  That is, he took existing elements of western Christianity, aka Roman Catholicism, and moved the pieces around, gave new emphasis to some, and rejected others to create a new form.  I am also avoiding another debate here - was his new form actually an old form reborn as he claimed? Anyway, it was new and creative within the context of the 16th century.  His creation caused the then standard form to become creative itself and move around bits and pieces and rejig generally.

Then, of course, I thought of J.R.R. Tolkien.  Why, you might ask?  Well, Tolkien insisted that we humans are not creative in an essential sense, but rather we are sub-creative.  That is, we re-arrange already created elements of this world.  We do not do anything 'de nihilo' [for those Latin-challenged who might happen to arrive at this blog - this means loosely translated, 'out of nothing'].  Even if you go down to the physical level of quarks.. or atoms etc... they exist already.... to  use modern advertising parlance, they are pre-enjoyed.  We merely alter them to sub-create.  If indeed, we humans are made in the image of God, the creator, then of course we must sub-create as a function of our very essence as human.

There is a battle over to what degree should we change anything?  What, if anything, is left sacrosanct, and what is allowable in terms of change...

My next set of ruminations looked at the tendency of the 'western' world to give special privilege to creativity in all areas - not without protest!  That is the essence of what we call conservativism - meaning simply to conserve....and there is a constant tension between liberalism - the tendency to liberate ideas from constraints and conservatism, the tendency to conserve and change as little as necessary.  Both are human traits.... but we  honour the sub-creators generally over the conservators.

Anyway... off to more mundane tasks now that I would love to change... but alas, cannot...