Over Christmas I had the privelege of looking after the kids by myself for three days. This turned out to be very enjoyable. Instead of running around after them or trying to control them I just got on with some of the creative things I enjoy doing – specifically singing and drawing - which Abi and Gracie were welcome to join in with in their own way if they wished. Not only did they clearly enjoy this but this was also a key moment for me in recovering what it means to be creative. Hidden reserves were released over that time that all along were meant to equip me to deal with the demands of life. Last semester, for instance, my way of dealing with all the new subjects I had to teach was to consume: to read as much as possible and then regurgitate it in the form of lecture notes. Now, I have a paper to present at a small conference next Wednesday. It is in a subject area that I have studied for 21 years so one would hope I’ve got something to say about it. But even so, I find that the instinct is to make sure that I have consulted every source possible: every article, every book. Hey, why don’t I just write the thing and see what comes out?
The world and all its advertising, its never-ending imagery, appeals to primitive hunting instincts within us that urge us to go after something, to capture it, own it, consume it. This is not to say that each advertising agency, TV channel, website designer or shop ever set out to do this. There is no conspiracy. They did not all get together one day and decide to brain wash us with the doctrines of consumerism but the fact is that they are all using the same techniques to appeal to the same human instincts for the same end result. As such it is a ‘system.’ And it is a system that wants us to consume ALL the time. It does this by making us feel dissatisfied. It creates a population awaiting contentment, a people looking for fullness. Yet the more we consume the more empty we feel. The dissatisfaction can reach a point where, despite having all we really need, we feel quite deeply unhappy with life. There is no peace. Creativity has died, and with it life itself. To be human is to be creative and to be creative is the essence of being human. Yet consumption so easily topples it.
What is the answer? On Sunday night, with the kids in bed, I was aware that I could go online to read some more reviews about that product or place an order for that thing I was going to get with money given as Christmas and birthday gifts, perhaps check Facebook, and so it would have gone on. Instead, I took the laptop upstairs and left it there. I brought the guitar downstairs and sat by the warm glow of the fire. I had an evening of simplicity with God. All this week, I am observing silence in my car: not allowing repetitious radio adverts, adversarial interviews with bluffing politicians or even my own CD collection to invade my precious hour. I am drawing upon deep inner resources of peace and rest. With simplicity comes peace and peace is the verdent pasture where creativity grows.