from BARDO

The stars are in our belly; the Milky Way our umbilicus.

Is it a consolation that the stuff of which we’re made

is star-stuff too?

– That wherever you go you can never fully disappear –

dispersal only: carbon, hydrogen, nitrogen, oxygen.

Tree, rain, coal, glow-worm, horse, gnat, rock.

Roselle Angwin

Tuesday, 31 March 2015

'creativity is not an occupation'

I've been revisiting old writings of my own, and also once again the manifesto of the Dark Mountain movement, and thinking as so often about the way in which we live out stories, usually unconsciously, and how they can in the end live us. 'Must' live us, maybe, as long as they are unconscious. 

This is true for individuals, true for cultures, and true for epochs. So our story in the Western world in the C21st is that of 'progress', aka global capitalism predicated on unlimited growth via the limited abundance of the natural-world-seen-as-product-and-resource; but that's another story.

I've mentioned the importance of story here a number of times, and the significance of the quality and message of the stories we are fed, or feed ourselves. As I've also mentioned before, my first book was about this; and I was banging the same drum in both Creative Novel Writing, in the introductory essay, and in Writing the Bright Moment.

So I'm not going to repeat myself here. On the theme of storytelling and creativity, I'm going to post instead a few excerpts from the current issue of 'New Statesman' which edited and reproduced the inaugural Garner Lecture at satellite station Jodrell Bank on 25 March. In this, novelist Alan Garner speaks of creativity and story, along with a host of other erudite thoughts, ideas and facts.

Many of us grew up knowing and loving Garner's work, especially (for me, anyway) his adaptation of motifs from the Celtic Mabinogion in his The Owl Service, a book supposedly for children/young adults but, like many classics, appealing to adults too. I find him immensely inspiring; a master storyteller.

I've learned four new words from the essay: 'powsels' and 'thrums', which are the oddments of thread left over from weaving; 'fettle' as a verb, rather than the more common noun (meaning I think something like smoothing/sanding/tending/oiling of metal or ceramic - in this case a church bell); and the Russian word 'rodina', for 'home': 'Home does not simply mean the physical structure. In Russian, the word is rodina – the land, our life force.'

Here are some snippets: '... what we call "creativity" is the bringing together of pre-existent entities that have not been seen to connect before... creativity makes connections...'

'Our thought structures are based on logic, on cause and effect. Without them, all would be a shambles and we would not be intelligent. Intelligence, however, takes more than one form. There is the linear, which enables us to deal with the material world; and there is the intuitive, over which we have no conscious control. It is this latter intelligence that is the source of creativity.

'Creativity is visual, not informed thought. It barges in uninvited, unannounced – confusing, chaotic, demanding, deaf to reason or to commonsense – and leaves the intellect to clear up the mess. Above all else, creativity is risk; heedful risk, but risk entire. Without risk we have the ability only to keep things ticking over the way they are.'

'Creativity is not an occupation. It is service to something beyond the self. In this broad sense, it partakes of the religious.'



A celebration of Garner's work under the title of First Light is currently being crowdfunded:

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