The Substance of Inspiration

There’s a chapter in the early in the Watchmen graphic novel where Dr. Manhattan goes to Mars, and is viewing the past, present, and future simultaneously. He makes a comment in this chapter (I’m paraphrasing) about how the future already is, about how a block of granite already has a shape inside of it in its future, and how it is awaiting the sculptor to take it out for all to see.

One of those lines in a book that makes you stop and read it twice.
So I began thinking about the things I write. This weekend, I finished a shor

Summer Draws to a Close…

Having been on vacation for two weeks, you’d think my brain would be emptied of superfluous junk and filled with really cool ideas. 

You’d think. 
Of course, its not. 
The best I can manage is the way that God used the time away to allow me to contemplate what’s really important in life, specifically people over material possessions. I was around family for most of the two weeks, and the highlight of the trip was Karen showing me around where she used to live while she worked on her undergrad. Having sights to put with the stories of the wonderful memories she narrates to me from those years was a great gift from her to me. You cannot truly appreciate the act of the play you currently watch, obviously, without seeing the act before, and this was the first time that I’ve seen the scenery to go with that part of her story.
As soon as I get the opportunity, I’ve made a promise to return the favor to her. 
I’m getting back into a work groove again (groan), and I did manage to write down some great and (hopefully) inspired ideas while traveling. Hopefully some of those will materialize soon. In the meantime, I’ll remain in a perpetual state of pondering “what next,” and hopefully something worth reading will appear here under the lights in a week or so. 
Until then, here’s to the end of  summer. Exit stage left…

Cyclical Creativity

There were some fantastic photos posted in a recent contest for Wired Magazine of cities around the world. Take the time to browse these…they were a great way to start out my morning. They also got the mental juices flowing on the concept of creativity. The process went something like this: 

Genesis recounts to us the original history of man, the creative strokes of a Master Artist. The narrative leaves a great deal of the story to our imaginations, as good narrative should, at least as far as those who would muse questions like, “what did that look like?” 

The same chapters explain to us that our race was created in God’s image. Theologically, this is the source of every human being’s intrinsic value. There’s something else that stands out as well: a blessing on creativity and craftsmanship can be inferred. After all, God thought way outside of any box in creating us, our micro environment (the Earth), and our macro environment (the universe), as well as any other potential inhabitants of the universe that may well be out there. The thing that makes man stand out as different and above the animals of our world is that we are designed and crafted in His image, and, with that, came a soul. 
That soul leads us to be creative as well. While some are apparently endowed with greater degrees of creativity than others, we all have the capacity for it…perhaps at different levels and in different ways, but we all have the capacity for it nonetheless. 
This thought process isn’t new, and certainly isn’t original to me. Its one of the cornerstones of the theological study of man, and likely has been since theology was a discipline. Paul discusses in Romans that we are all hard-wired to believe in a higher power when we ponder His creation. For me, its the beach. Sitting in the sun, listening to the waves roll in, and pondering the water meeting the sky in the distance in slightly different shades of blue, I recognize God’s power and creativity like I do in no other venue. 
Now, what does this have to do with the photos I referenced earlier? I guess I think of it this way: if God created us as creators, then He designed us to create as He did. Of course, we’re doing so on a much more limited scale (we can’t create something from nothing, as God did), but we can take what is in our environment and craft it into something impressive. And I think there is a spiritual component to that. For me, I see it most in the crafting of words. Although I’m not an overly visual person, though, I’ve been forever fascinated by city-scapes and skylines, especially at night. Captured, as these images were, through the lens (literally and mentally) of those with the gift of finding a still image in a situation that will be timeless, they are particularly beautiful and poignant to me, especially as one ponders the humanity within them. 
So, if God created the environment for us, and if He created us as creators, then it stands to reason that He intended for us to keep building and crafting. And, while encountering His nature in its own right is an intensely beautiful thing to me, so is encountering what we can continue to add to it, as imperfect and flawed as that might be. It is all a cycle of creation, and the fact that we keep it going is indicative, perhaps, of the best our fallen condition has to offer on its own. 

Liar, Liar, Pants on Fire

I listened to a fascinating story this morning about a woman who made her way through life by lying. The people who had been victimized by her lying spoke of their difficulty trusting again…something I can relate to easily enough, as I don’t readily trust people at all. I felt incredibly sorry for this person…from a clinical perspective I’m diagnosing her while from a spiritual perspective I’m grieving for her quality of life. The story, as always, hooked me, drawing me into their world as any good story will. The story piqued my interest in the research behind it. 

The host of the program interviewed a researcher who has made an interesting discovery in the brains of so-called “pathological liars.” Brain scans of the prefrontal cortex, the area that is linked to the appropriateness of social interactions, among other things, reveal interesting discoveries. For example, there are a number of interconnections in the prefrontal cortex, and there seem to be fewer of these in incarcerated individuals, suicide victims, etc. I’ve seen real-world examples of these: I once had a friend who had been involved in an accident that damaged the tissue in this area of the brain. This person could verbalize some extremely blunt things  in conversation: think House in the real world.
The research referenced this morning, though, points out the presence of some white matter, also, and this white matter is (apparently) increasingly present in those who lie easily and frequently. The theory here is that perhaps the more white matter there is, the easier it is for one to dig up a lie and tell the story. 
This leads me to wonder, then, where do story-tellers fall in this area? Not necessarily story-tellers like the reporter in the beginning of this morning’s piece, but fiction writers, for example. Do we have more white matter? What about actors? Have we simply located a socially acceptable medium of expression for our “story-telling” tendencies? 
A second researcher featured at the end of this program focused on self-deception: the ability to readily lie to ourselves. Her conclusion was the those of us who are able to self-deceive easily tend to be happier and more successful. While certainly I recognize the ability of man to self-deceive at a frightening capacity, I wonder if the artist wouldn’t prove an exception to her theory? By her definition, the self-deceiver (or one with the ability to easily lie) sees life more positively, and that those who are more honest about life are more depressed, more pragmatic, seeing life “as is.” 
So, if (and this is a big “if” backed up by only my musings and no concrete research of which I am aware), the artistic story-teller has the ability to formulate these fictions so readily, why is it that the artist is the one who paints the human condition in all of its bleakness as well as its joy? If the artist is, in some sense, the prophet of our day, then doesn’t the happiness-caused-by-self-deception theory break down? 
Strange perceptual shifts tend to happen, after all, when one is exposed to the truth.