by Matthew Fox (Dec 14, 2012)
The choir sang this morning about fire and water, so I’d like to speak a few words about the fire of creativity and the water of community. I wrote a book a couple of years ago called Creativity: Where the Divine and the Human Meet. Last night I think we had an experience of that, where the divine and the human meet. Thank you to our musicians and artists. This is what creativity does. And it’s good for the artists and it’s good for the listeners. Indeed, it takes art to listen to good music. It takes art to appreciate good painting. Where would the artist be, of any sort, without the recipients of one’s art? So it is a circle, the circle of creativity. And many, many people know, from their experience either in giving birth to what is creative in them or to receiving the birth of others, that these are some of our most profound mystical experiences—that we travel the rapids of creativity on a raft over which we have no control. We’re just being borne along by the power of the Holy Spirit.
In the thirteenth century, St. Thomas Aquinas—who, by the way, was condemned by the church three times before they canonized him a saint, so keep that in mind; he must have said something interesting—he says that the same spirit that hovered over the waters at the beginning of creation hovers over the mind of the artist at work. So the work of creation, here we have people argue about whether it happened six thousand years ago or 13.7 billion years ago—I prefer the 13.7 billion years ago—but the point is, it’s still going on. Creation is continuous. And our species, being especially gifted to be creative, is certainly carrying on this great work.
Of course, our species is also radically dangerous for the very same reason, because we carry within us this divine power of creativity. Again, Aquinas said, in the thirteenth century, “One human being can do more evil than all the other species put together.” Whoa, it takes your breath away! This was seven hundred years before Hitler or Pol Pot or Stalin [or Truman]. How did he know that? Because he valued human creativity. He knew that it is a major presence on the Earth.
But where is creativity honored in our educational systems? What departments are dropped the moment there’s a budget crunch? Out goes art, out goes theater, out goes music. Our culture has not caught up with the reality that creativity is the very essence of what it means to be a human being. This is what distinguishes us. When anthropologists go out and look for bones, to find our ancestors, they don’t just look for bones. They look for artifacts with the bones. Humans are bipeds who make things. Then they know these are our ancestors, because that’s what it means to be human: to be creative and carrying that divine, yes,–and quasi-demonic power– within us.
And that is why the Earth is in so much trouble today, because humans have raced ahead with our dynamic creativity without asking who’s paying for this. Who’s paying the price of tearing down rain forests in a day that it’s taken God and nature ten thousand years to give birth to? We have to become much more aware of our creativity, both its beauty and its potential for damage.
A song was sung last night about heaven and Earth. Meister Eckhart, fourteenth century, says “we must become heaven on Earth so that God can find a home here.” We must become heaven on Earth, and that means we start creating communities that are authentic so that divinity can find a home here.
Derek Walcott is a Caribbean poet who won the Nobel Prize for poetry in 1992. In his acceptance speech, he had this wonderful line that I want to share with you. It means a lot to me. He says, “The fate of poetry is to fall in love with the world in spite of history.” The fate of poetry is to fall in love with the world in spite of history. This is true not just of poetry but of all art, of music, of dance, of film, of pottery. All art is the work of luring us into falling in love again.