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Creatively Responding to the World

Updated: Jun 2, 2023

I named this blog, "Following Threads". It began as as a vehicle to follow threads of thought and practice I come across that I sense are related to arts of social change; curious to see where they might lead me; and how they might weave together. The exploration is never complete.

Threads in this blog post are:

  • the world as it is: a hierarchy of social order and segmentation

  • creativity as a response to the world as it is

  • risks as vital to creative growth

  • creativity impacts on well being and happiness

A hierarchy of segmented social order

I have been reading Isabel Wilkerson's "Caste: The Origins of Our Discontent". Wilkerson chooses the language of the stratified social system of hierarchy in India, to explore a stratified system here in the United States. Social segmentation and a hierarchy of advantage, dominance, belonging, and exclusion, are alive and well. There are many lenses through which to observe this: skin color, gender, sexuality, perceived physical and intellectual capacity, age, and more.

The notion that our world is structured in ways that place some people as dominant, on top, while others find themselves "in their place" somewhere beneath, is not too difficult to grasp. A majority of people in the country have some lived experience with aspects of caste. Wilkerson points out that it remains as a force, because of its ordinariness:

“Caste is insidious and therefore powerful because it is not hatred, it is not necessarily personal. It is the worn grooves of comforting routines and unthinking expectations, patterns of a social order that have been in place for so long that it looks like the natural order of things.”

We have either witnessed people being "put in their place", or we have a direct experience of it. The question is not so much does caste exist, but rather how do we choose to respond when we become aware of it. How do we not simply become immobilized by the "that's the way it has always been" belief; how urgently do we feel the need to find other ways of organizing our relationships to one another? It is important to notice that while it can "look like the natural order of things", it is not the natural order, it was created.

Creativity will be required

So while I cannot say that I know the specifics of what we should do about this, I can say that creativity will be required. Creativity will be required, to break out of "comforting routines and unthinking expectations"; to rearrange our structures; to put the parts together in new ways; to shift from the accepted triangular hierarchy of control, to a more circular gifted ecology that makes room for contribution each to the wellbeing of the whole.

My broad understanding of artists is as people who make a relentless commitment to engaging creativity, with all of the feeling, imagination, risks, failures, joy, and endless pursuit of bringing something into being. I look to people who follow this type of commitment, in search of clues about how we can approach the world as it is, and explore what more, and different, is possible.

Risk is Indispensable (however scary that may be)

Recently a blog post came into my email. "Risk is an Indispensable Ingredient of Creative Growth" by Christopher P. Jones. In the blog, Christopher references the importance of risk in the process of our traditional understanding of artists as painters, performers, musicians, sculptors, etc. But I found his points to be equally relevant to any creative adventure. I heard his message as being relevant to any of us who explore creativity in efforts to establish new and valued roles and relationships with each other, to stretch outside of the seemingly "natural order".

"...risk is about experimenting with and stretching your normal patterns of behaviour. It means choosing the things you wouldn’t typically do, moving beyond the expected and perhaps even doing the very thing you’re most afraid of."

Risk is married with uncertainty. Our aversion to uncertainty is both ordinary, and profound, and yet to create anything, risk and uncertainty are essential elements of experience. Jones points out,

A risk might be letting your imagination roam completely unfettered and trying something brand new with your work, or diversifying in other ways where the outcome is unknown. Stretching your innovative parameters means you don’t know what’s around the corner — opening up a source of creative discovery.

While essential to any creative endeavor, uncertainty stirs fear. For many of us that fear is palpable, and resonant with early experiences of judgement and even punishment. Jones describes it this way,

"...the fear that what we create won’t work out and the results will be unsatisfactory. The uncertainty surrounding the reception of our work by others may also prompt us to question: does the potential risk appear credible and worth pursuing?"

When fears stirred in creative pursuits arise, it is easy to see how people choose to tread in "the worn grooves of comforting routines and unthinking expectations" as Isabel Wilkerson says. For some of us, anticipation that the fear will arise is enough to reject the thought that we are, or might even attempt to be, creative.

Christopher Jones points out how avoidance of the exploration of the unknown blocks the growth of an artist,

"...shying away from unexplored avenues, one runs the risk of something far worse: of unwittingly restricting the scope of your creative evolution. Embracing risk can serve as a transformative catalyst.

I find myself lifting this statement out of the context of the traditional understanding of art and artist, and into our understandings of ourselves as human, and human organization as a whole, as Isabel Wilkerson's references in "Caste". Shying away from creativity and unexplored avenues, one does risk something far worse. We risk maintaining, and deepening, what is. We risk participating in a structure built on advantage and disadvantage, domination, segregation, and violence causing harm. We risk degrading humanity's progressive evolution, and living in denial of the pesky stubborn reality that we are all born IN to humanity, we are all a part of the whole.

Creativity as healing and restorative

Creativity is a healing and restorative practice in the face of a world desperately in need of being made whole. Approaching and engaging in life and work as a creative act can shift our understanding of what we are doing, and what is available to do it. Being creative is a choice and practice available to all. Rick Rubin (The Creative Act: A Way of Being) reminds us:

“Creativity doesn’t exclusively relate to making art. We all engage in this act on a daily basis. To create is to bring something into existence that wasn’t there before. It could be a conversation, the solution to a problem, a note to a friend, the rearrangement of furniture in a room, a new route home to avoid a traffic jam.”

Bower's blog sites a variety of research that links engaging in creativity with mental health, wellbeing, and happiness. It also associates creativity with our capacity to solve problems. can harness happiness by creating the conditions through which you can access it—and creative pursuits are a surefire way to bring about more joy.

Seeing Our Life and Work as Creative

So how can we approach what we do as "creativity"? How can we broaden our understanding of creative beyond the traditional realm of art and artist, and how can we see our life and work as art?

How can we see the mission of our work as creating change, incrementally shifting from the stratified world of people being put in their place, to a world of mutuality and contribution to the whole? How might we make creativity and co-creativity as our response to the world as it is?

In Bower's blog, she identifies research that points to how engaging in creativity can foster positive feelings:

Creativity fed positivity, which in turn, fed creativity, thus setting up a reinforcing relationship. (The University of Otago)

She references how empathy links creativity with happiness:

A factor linking both creativity and happiness is empathy and a focus on others. When we focus on applying our talents to help others, we feel happier....when empathy is enhanced, this can result in greater creativity and problem solving. (The University of Cambridge)

Personal and Collective Choices

The good news is that no one has to wait to choose creativity way of being and doing. Each of us can choose how we see our lives and work. We can all find ways of benefiting from the positive effects of creativity.

The power of creativity can be multiplied when we design organizational cultures to ignite and support creativity among the members of the group. Tracy Bower suggests some things we each can do personally, and that organizations can foster collectively:

Find judgment free zones. We tend to tap into our best creative thinking when we can turn down the volume on critics—both our inner critic and those around us...
Free your (our) mind(s)...When you explore more freely and have the opportunity for your thinking to diverge and your curiosity to be sated, you will create the conditions for both happiness and creativity...
Find your people...Join with your people at the points that are best for you—to create, obtain feedback or revel in their positive responses and celebrate your brilliance.
You do you...When you can be yourself more fully—at work and in life—you’ll tend to enjoy greater mental health and career success. You’ll be able to inspire your best and your unique contributions to the community.

Holding creativity as the lens through which we see and act in the world, holds promise for what we can create, individually and together, and how that might shape our lives and work. Tracy Bower closes her blog post with this thought:

Creativity is lifeblood. Humans crave finding fresh pathways, solving problems and building something new—and you can fulfill this need and your happiness at the same time.

Following threads, and at the heart of it is courage, to see the world as it is, and choose to participate in making it anew. Courage to step through risk and uncertainty, with all of the weight of fear and judgement, into an endless playful spirit of creating. Courage to see our life and work and world as art, never quite complete. Courage to hear the invitation to join in creation, and step through that doorway, looking for who else might be there to create together.

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David Hasbury
David Hasbury
Jun 07, 2023

Wonderful to be with people who say yes to the invitation and step through the door. Thank you Ester, for saying yes.

Maravilloso estar con personas que dicen que sí a la invitación y cruzan la puerta. Gracias Ester, por decir que sí.


Ester Ortega
Ester Ortega
Jun 06, 2023

Maravilloso encontrarse en el mundo con personas que abren puertas e invitan a pasar! Gracias Dave! Wonderful to meet people in the world who open doors and invite you in! Thank you Dave!

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