Directed Creativity


Last night, while attending Taizé meditation, I found myself thinking about a book I've been reading, Jesus and Creativity, by Gordan Kaufman. Kaufman is a Harvard theologian who rejects the idea of a personal God; instead, he sees God as simply another name for the creativity that is manifest in the universe. I am not sure what to make of this idea that reduces God to mere creativity. While I think that creativity is an important part of the divine nature, and while I am not necessarily wedded to the idea of a personal God, there is part of me that feels like creativity alone just isn't enough to capture all that God is.

During the meditative portion of Taizé, I asked God, rather plaintively, "Is that all you are? Are you really nothing but creativity?" I will be the first to admit that God's nature is impossible for me to fathom, and that the idea of God as "personal" may just be a useful but nevertheless limiting model for the ultimate reality. Yet, somehow, in just asking God that question in meditative silence, I felt a strange connection with the divine, as if I were looking God in the eye for just a moment. It only lasted briefly, and then the feeling was gone.

The previous week, during the same meditative part of the Taizé service, I had told God that after the service, she and I were going to enjoy some ice cream together. I had about a half pint left in my freezer; I felt that, if God really shares in all our experiences, then surely God would enjoy that ice cream as much as I would. A week later, though, after asking God if she were nothing but creativity, I tempered my earlier enthusiasm over the idea of God sharing in my pleasures; because I realized that, even if God experiences my enjoyment of the ice cream, God also shares in the suffering I experience that results from unhealthy living. That's where divine creativity comes into play. God doesn't only share our experiences; God also lures us to act in ways that maximize the benefits of our experiences. Thus God can call out to us to present the best options for the choices we make in life. Sometimes the choices we make involve trade-offs. Short term pleasure often brings long term pain. Personal pleasure sometimes hurts other people. Divine creativity isn't about hedonism; it is also about love and wisdom, and it leads us to the best option among the many available to us.

The point here is that this creativity is not just creativity for creativity's sake; it is creativity with a purpose. Unlike Gordan Kaufman, I see nothing awe-inspiring or divine about creativity per se. It is only when creativity is directed towards the highest possible purposes that it becomes worthy of our wonderment. This directed creativity is what process theology refers to as the "initial aims" of each occasion of experience.

Jim Burklo, in the meditation that I quoted in my previous posting, suggested that through our wonderment, "the divine becomes ecstatically aware of itself." I like this idea a lot. The evolution of life, and ultimately consciousness, over the course of billions of years, was a cooperative process between the universe and God; it is through this consciousness that God, who experiences what we experience, is able to experience herself as we see her--as an Other. It is this evolution of consciousness that not only enhances the universe for its own sake, but in essence it also enhances God. Just by being, we are co-participants in God's ecstatic self-awareness.


Jan said...

Your unitive experience with God was beautiful. Also ironic, because of your seeming negation of "creativity." God of the Unexpected!

The concept of God being Creativity goes along with the lectures given by Brian Swimme, a cosmologist. Swimme spoke of Divine Creativity which is continually creating in the entire universe. It has been proved that in a complete vacuum, matter springs forth from the "nurturing abyss."

He said, "The essence of the universe is emergence, which is creative activity."

That seemed to connect with your experience and what you're saying.
Thank you.

Kay said...

I attended a workshop by Matt Fox a few years back that discussed Divinity as creativity and how we, as expressions of divine creativity, can engage in creativity ourselves, thus continuing the cycle. He also discussed how doing so helps us to "plug in" to the dance of life and, well, everything.

nahual said...

You say: "The point here is that this creativity is not just creativity for creativity's sake; it is creativity with a purpose."

Who's purpose? Is it the same purpose for everyone? Don't we imbide purpose from the phenomena we are immersed into?

The ingredients are all here to realize mud pies or music.

Mystical Seeker said...

Jan, the comment from Brian Swimme is interesting. From the little I know of quantum physics, I seem to recall that it is the case that small bits of subatomic matter springs up for infinitesimally small periods of time in vacuums and then disappears. It is almost like space is constantly bubbling with the creative urge.

Kay, also interesting thoughts from Matthew Fox. I do think that we are co-creators with God, and that our creativity and Divine creativity work hand in hand.

Nahual, mud pies and music are both manifestations of creativity in their own way. Process theology would say that God's directed creativity is specific to each event, unique to each moment and place and time. In this view, a creative event is a collaboration between three things: everything that has happened in the past up to the present moment; the experiencing occasion itself; and God. We have a choice at every moment to make a mud pie or write music, to make bombs or to make peace, to love or to hate. Every moment involves a choice. But some creative choices are bad. God's role is to offer the "initial aims" that suggest the idea action at a given moment, but of course at every moment those aims will be different. My guess is that God approves of mud pies from time to time. :)

Eileen said...

Very interesting thoughts by all here.

I am enjoying the sensation of cogitation it is producing in me.

I can't see reducing God to creativity alone, but, I can see it is a very important aspect of what is "God".

nahual said...

mystical seeker that is my point. Creator, such as that force is, only cares what we do with our time and talents to the extent we get another opportunity to live and learn and improve. Opportunity is given with this life, and teachers, those that have interpreted the phenomena of their own perceptions,(ex: process theologians) are provided. We each have less than a cubic foot of grey matter to make our way forward and live the maxim that there are many paths to the top of the mountain.
IMHO if we need to see creativity has a purpose that's our human interpretation of our reality, not necessarily creativity's. As of course there are many interpretations of the same phenomena, if we can agree our interpretation and phenomena are separate and I feel they are not.

Mystical Seeker said...

The reason I believe that Divine creativity is directed with a purpose is precisely because creativity without a purpose is empty of the virtues that I believe to be divine attributes, such as of love or justice; creativity can be directed towards all sorts of purposes, not all of them benign. Since I believe that love and justice are divine attributes, I can't see the point in saying that God is simply another name for creativity.

nahual said...

I often try to SEE without JUDGEMENT. Just to see what is before me as it is, for what it is. I enjoy the exercise and am always lifted in spirit for the purity.