Famed artist Pablo Picasso faced heavy criticism for his artistic work and style. Accused of not standing in the tradition of great artists, and of having no talent, Picasso responded: “Tradition is not wearing your father’s hat. It is having a baby.” Picasso was calling for forward thinking, building on the knowledge and experience of the past.
German philosopher Friedrich Nietzche suggested “many a man fails to become a good thinker for the sole reason that his memory is too good”. Nietsche may well have been suggesting that when we spend too much time recalling things from the past, we fail to be forward looking. Of course a certain amount of memory (a store of knowledge) is as important for our creative thinking as wood is in providing fuel for a fire.
Thomas Edison’s efforts to create the electric light globe resulted in over 50,000 failed attempts. In contrast to the disillusionment of his cohorts, Edison was much more upbeat: “at least we now know 50,000 ways that don’t work!” His store of knowledge did not stifle his forward thinking, but helped shape it in new and creative ways (learning the lessons of the past).
Those who are the most creative are the ones who fail the most (though don’t let that be an excuse at report time!) Eugene Peterson reflects that “Creativity is difficult. When you are being creative, you are living by faith. You don’t know what is next because the created, by definition, is what’s never been before. So you’re living on the edge of something in which you’re not very confident.”
Hard work. Failure. Criticism. Being misunderstood. All associated with wonderful creativity. Consider the words of a Franciscan Blessing:
May God bless you with discomfort at easy answers, half truths and superficial relationships so that you may live deep within your heart. May God bless you with anger at injustice, oppression, and exploitation of people, so that you may wish for justice, freedom, and peace. May God bless you with enough foolishness to believe that you can make a difference in this world, so that you can do what others claim cannot be done.Be wonderfully creative!
November 9, 2003