The world’s creation myths pose an essential set of questions. What is the relationship between the creator and the created? Are the two separated by an unbridgeable chasm, or are they two aspects of one fundamental unity?
In every story it’s the same. The primal unity splits into a duality, and from the duality a multiplicity pours forth – from one comes two and from two come the ten thousand things – for it is only in this way that the sacred source can know itself: in relationship.
In Egyptian mythology Atum, all alone, mates with his shadow and expectorates the primal male and female gods Shu and Tefnut. In Greek mythology the primal goddess Gaia creates her own partner Uranos, and from their union all the other gods are born. In the Mayan Popul Vuh God longs for humans who will love him and say his name, and goes through several failed human prototypes before he perfects us. In all of these origin stories one theme remains constant – creation is a manifestation of the generative energy of love. It is a great cosmic loneliness that begets the creation of the world and everything in it. Love, literally, makes the world.
When we create – whether it’s an artwork, a tech start-up, or a home-cooked meal – we participate in this same sacred unfolding. In any creation process, we become a channel through which pours the primal creativity of the cosmos itself.
This dynamic is beautifully expressed in the Vedanta tradition of the Indian Upanishads. In Sanskrit, the sacred source is called Brahman, from the root bhri meaning “emergence.” Brahman is not a personified god – it is the sacred formless source of all things, including the gods. We too are Brahman, and like everything else, are emanations of this divine singularity. It is Brahman’s nature to pour forth ever-new and beautiful forms. This therefore is our nature as well.
When you feel the creative urge, pay attention. It is a sacred calling, a God-nudge to participate in the one unfolding that arises unceasingly from the primal ground of being. We make use of the things we create, but we do not create for ourselves – we create so that the universe can continue giving form to itself. Your songs, poems, paintings, films, and solutions to problems – all of it – are action-prayers, ritual participation in the birthing of the real. Christian mystic Meister Eckhart put it this way: “We are all meant to be mothers of God. God is always needing to be born.”
What if you don’t feel inspired? Can you still create if you’re not feeling it? The answer is yes. We must. Creation is not a hobby, a trifle, or a pass-time to while away the hours. It is far more necessary than that. It is self-indulgent to stand idly by, waiting for inspiration. As contemporary visual artist Chuck Close put it, “Inspiration is for amateurs. The rest of us just show up and get to work.”
Creativity is work. Suit up, show up, and put your tools in your hands. “Inspiration exists,” said Picasso, “but it has to find you working.”
Stop waiting. Get out of your own way. Take your mind off of the finished product, and put it squarely into process itself. As Robert Pirsig wrote in Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, “Sometimes it’s a little better to travel than arrive.” By your participation alone, you are signaling your readiness, willingness, and openness to the creative flow that you are.
And the final realization is this – each of us is an artist and our masterpiece is our life. It is not the objects and art-forms we craft that have the most lasting value; it is our virtue, integrity, and loving-kindness that best express our sacred origin. When we lovingly participate in the healing of the world we are the divine eternal Mother-Father manifesting in the field of time. When we awaken to this realization we become this realization, and get down to the messy business of birthing the world anew.
[This piece was originally published in my column called "A to Zen" in the May/June 2017 issue of Unity Magazine, and is reproduced here with permission.]