The Courage to Create


Have just started reading The Courage to Create which was given to me last week.

Prometheus, Adam and Eve, courage in the face of a changing society, creative archetypes… It’s been a very stimulating read so far discussing from a psychologist’s perspective where the creative impulse comes from.

Publishers Weekly call it “A signal testimonial to the creative spirit… A brilliantly incisive exploration of the creative encounter – the coming to grips of the healthily committed creative artist or thinker with his or her sociocultural background and with his or her own dangerously Promethean impulses.”

It was written in 1975, so I’m doubtless coming to the party very late… here’s some tasters from the opening pages:

We are living at a time when one age is dying and the new age is not yet born. We cannot doubt this as we look about us to see the radical changes in sexual mores, in marriage styles, in family structures, in education, in religion, technology and almost every other aspect of modern life. To live with sensitivity in this age indeed requires courage.

…A choice confronts us. Shall we, as we feel our foundations shaking, withdraw in anxiety and panic? Frightened by the loss of our familiar mooring places, shall we become paralyzed and cover our inaction with apathy? If we do those things, we will have surrendered our chance to participate in the forming of the future. We will have capitulated to the blind juggernaut of history and lost the chance to mold the future into a society more equitable and humane.

…We are called upon to do something new, to confront a no man’s land, to push into a forest where there are no well-worn paths and from which no one has returned to guide us. To live into the future means to leap into the unknown, and this requires a degree of courage for which there is no immediate precedent and which few people realize.

…Those who present the new forms and symbols are the artists – the dramatists, the musicians, the painters, the dancers, the poets, and those poets of the religious sphere we call saints. They live out their imaginations; they give us ‘distant early warnings’ of what is happening to our culture.

…Yet a curious paradox characteristic of every kind of courage here confronts us. It is the seeming contradiction that we must be fully committed, but we must also be aware that we might possibly be wrong. People who claim to be absolutely convinced that their stand is the only right one are dangerous. Such conviction is the essence not only of dogmatism, but of its more destructive cousin, fanaticism. It blocks the user from learning new truth… They then have to double his or her protests in order to quiet not only the opposition, but his or her own unconscious doubts as well.

…As Leibnitz said: “I would walk twenty miles to listen to my own worst enemy if I could learn something.”

…The battle with the gods [seen in Prometheus / Adam and Eve] hinges on our own mortality. Creativity is a yearning for immortality. Creativity comes from struggle: out of the rebellion the creative act is born, it is the passion to live beyond one’s own death.