Creative courage…for 2010
January 3, 2010 by Bill
We see radical changes in sexual patterns, lifestyles, marriage arrangements and definitions, women’s roles, family structures, education, energy, religion, with people leaving organized religion and the traditional Christian church by the thousands to seek more private and personal spiritual experiences. We are seeing change in almost every conceivable aspect of life. Now, we can withdraw in anxiety, or we can become negative and pessimistic. If we choose either of these paths, we forfeit our chance to participate in the creation of the future as we move into 2010.
To live in this age, or any age, requires an enormous amount of faith, courage and willingness to take risks. But to participate in the forming of a future is to create. And courage, risk taking, creativity and faith are the attributes that have continually reformed the structure of civilization.
What is creative courage? It is the willingness to pursue new forms, new symbols and new patterns of truth with all the risks. The alternative is stagnation. Every profession – technology, diplomacy, business, the arts, medicine, law – requires those who possess a creative courage. Certainly that is true in teaching and education as well as organized religion.
At the end of “A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man”, James Joyce has his young hero write these words in his diary: “Welcome O Life, I go to encounter for the millionth time the reality of experience and to forge in the smithy of my soul the uncreated conscience of my race.”
In other words, every creative encounter is a new event and every time requires another assertion of courage and faith and involves risk. I especially like the words “to forge…the uncreated conscience of my race.” Joyce is saying here that “conscience” is not something handed down ready made from Mount Sinai, nor the Sermon on the Mount, once and for all.
Why is creativity so difficult? Why does it require such courage? Why is it such a risk-taking venture? For the very reason that it does contribute to the process of creating a new conscience for the race. It is not just simply a matter of clearing out debris from an ancient age or clearing away dead norms, defunct symbols and myths that have become lifeless. It is not that simple.
The major risk is that creativity provokes the jealousy of the institutional gods. That is why genuine and authentic creativity always takes such courage. An active battle with the gods occurs, whether the gods be an institution, a church, a government, or those protecting an outmoded image of a supernatural God. Courageous creativity ALWAYS provokes the jealousy of, and outrages, the gods. In ancient Greek civilization, Prometheus challenged Zeus, and Zeus was outraged. In the biblical myth of Adam and Eve, God is outraged at the audacious courage of Adam and Eve.
The relating of rebellion and creative courage to religion is hard for many people to swallow. In religion it has always been the flatterers of the popular God who have been praised. But it has been the insurgents and the rebels who are praised by history and immortalized, among them Socrates, Jesus and Joan of Arc.
The pharaoh of the 18th dynasty of Egypt, Akhenaton, challenged the entire corrupt priesthood of Egypt saying, “You are enslaving people with your superstitions and your ignorant beliefs.” Zoroaster was persecuted. Buddha made scathing attacks upon Hindu corruption in his time. Luther and Albert Schweitzer were excommunicated from their church.
In one of Renan’s philosophical dramas, there is a dialogue in heaven where Gabriel, speaking of the Earth and its skeptics, says to God, “If I had thine omnipotence I would quickly reduce these wicked atheists to silence.” But, God replies: “Ah Gabriel, thou art so faithful, but thy faithfulness has made thee so narrow. Learn my special tenderness for those who deny me. For what they deny is the image, grotesque and abominable, which has been put in my place. In all the world of idolaters, they alone, the doubters and deniers, are the only ones who really respect me.”
The cemeteries of history are filled with the graves of the dead gods. Astarte, Baal, Isis, Horus, Osiris, Jupiter, Thor. It is long past time to bury one other god, the god of the bible, the god of vengeance and anger, a theological policeman, whose beat is the universe, a heavenly trigger man, a celestial hit man, who has a contract out on all those earthly humans who do not hold the “correct” beliefs about “him”.
We can move into 2010, in so many areas of our lives, with anxiety and doubt, or we can with creative courage face the risks, and contribute toward “forging in the smithy of our souls the uncreated conscience of our race.”
There is a far greater archaeology than digging for lost cities. It is an archaeology of the mind, aimed at uncovering the foundations of the authentic city of the human soul, covered with all of the debris of conventional and antiquated institutional systems. We must dig through, layer by layer, until once again each of us can experience in our own lives that fresh new spirit that reveals new patterns of truth for our own time.