As seen published in River Valley Woman Magazine

We live in an increasingly unhappy, intolerant, and violent country. Our populace is plagued by depression and anxiety; more so than any other. Our current political situation has us wracked with uncertainty and distrust; not only in our leaders, but our family, friends and neighbors. Given the present-day cultural milieu, I find there is but one place I can turn and still find hope for humanity.

Art.

The creative arts in every format, for time immemorial, have been the great unifier. At defining moments in the history of our world, you will not find a great policy or a well-written bill in Congress that touched on the hearts of the masses in just such a way that it became the catalyst for sweeping change. However, I can almost guarantee that you will find an iconic photograph, a classic poem, a moving speech delivered by a gifted orator, or a “Give Peace a Chance.”

And then, a little while later, they passed a bill, signed a peace accord, tore down a wall, etc., etc.

The creative arts saturate moments in time with an almost magical energy, inspiring humans to transcend the limited ideas of the current paradigm. Art breaks down old, tired barriers and demolishes egotistical habits – bringing the unlikeliest of people together in a spirit of compromise and love.

Ironically, despite the power that art harnesses, it is undervalued in both education and commerce. This shouldn’t be surprising though. Schools were designed to produce good workers, not deep thinkers. And society is set up to support the existing power structures, not challenge the status quo. Creativity, by its very nature, is not manageable. Just ask an artist! Steve Jobs once said:

“When you ask creative people how they did something, they feel a little guilty because they didn’t really do it, they just saw something. It seemed obvious to them after a while. That’s because they were able to connect experiences they’ve had and synthesize new things. Creativity is just connecting things.”

I can already hear the cacophony of left-brained folks lamenting, “I’m not like that. I’ve never been the creative type; I failed art class.” I hear you. The image of “the tortured artist” painting on canvas or composing a symphony can be intimidating or downright unattractive. But that’s not creativity. In fact, I would argue that the creative process can be a quite logical piecing together of both inspiration, and also, what just makes sense! If an artist doesn’t bother to ask whether what they’ve created is clearly communicating something to their audience, their art is at best, convoluted (and at worst, just plain bad).

Creativity is simply connecting ideas and people. I promise that you accountants, lawyers, and human resources professionals out there, you are artists, in one way or another. The only reason people don’t bother to think of themselves as creative is quite honestly, because we define our identity by what makes us a buck. The dominant economic value of our time is per capita income, not per capita happiness. If it were the latter, we’d have a helluva lot more art. The after effects of the industrial revolution have given rise to a goal-oriented, task-oriented, individualistic culture. The creative arts are exactly the opposite: a relationship-oriented, community-oriented, sharing of what moves us.

And right now, as a country, we need to be moved. Badly. So please, I’m begging you, create stuff! Day dream, scrap book, quilt, paint on canvas, paint your face! Knit, cook, take your gardening gloves off and get dirt under your nails, smash the dirt around between your hands, add water to the dirt, now you’ve created mud! See, I told you that you that you could create! Pick up a writing utensil and write something down. Write anything down. On paper! Even if it’s just a doodle on a post-it note, purge all the feelings in your body onto that post-it in an epic unfolding of the creative process! Simply be intentional in deciding that whatever activity you’re engaged in, is your art. Allow your brain to enjoy the satisfaction of bringing something forth into the world. You need to do it. The world needs you to do it.

The less we allow ourselves to feel both the beautiful and the tragic, the more we kill our creative potential. When we put our nose down and stomp through the daily grind mindlessly, we numb ourselves to the world and the people we share it with. And if we’re numb, it becomes all too easy to separate ourselves from others; to think them peculiar, or less important. Creativity is not just the work of hobbyists or people with the luxury of time to spend creating. Engaging in the creative process allows us to see possibilities in unexpected places… where others do not.

What could be more important than challenging our minds to recognize possibility?

Make America create again.