I was speaking with a friend in San Francisco a couple weeks ago about the entelechy curriculum I’m developing, explaining to him the basic principles behind the whole deal with the hopes of receiving some constructive feedback.
He was really supportive and excited about it (which always makes me feel even more so excited about what I am doing, of course) but he also had a wonderful little anecdote to share about his own experience of understanding personal power and creativity, and it got me to thinking about some broader concepts implicit in this work.
During university my friend was in an intro class where the professor began by asking the whole class a bunch of odd questions, requesting them to all to raise their hands in response. Standing in front of a room of several hundred adults (who were there to learn about computer programming, I believe) the professor began drilling them with some strange queries.
He started by asking “who in here can dance?”, a question which drew a lot of puzzled looks, apparently, and then a timid response of a few hands shooting up to answer.
This was followed by “how many of you can draw?”, “who thinks they can paint?”, and “raise your hand if you can sing?”, each question drawing a similarly restrained and pale reaction.
We all likely recognize this as a typical adult quasi-acknowledgment of artistic/so-called creative abilities. Sure, some of us might bashfully stand up for our more creative talents when someone asks, but most of the time we’ll only affirm them if we’ve received formal training in dancing, singing or drawing, or if somehow our concepts of self and confidence magically emerged relatively unscathed from the trials of early childhood and adolescence. Not many of us are quick to tell the world that we’re ‘good’ at something creative.
But…after asking those initial questions the teacher then asked the students to consider how they would respond if they were actually four or five years old, or to just imagine what a group of four to five year olds would say if asked whether they could dance. Or paint. Or sing.
Quite the opposite, right?
While I have certainly come across four year olds who have already internalized the criticisms and judgements of the outside world (a very sad thing indeed) it’s thankfully not that common. Four year olds—hopefully—think they’re the shit when it comes to singing, dancing, drawing, painting, acting, designing, and pretty much any other creative endeavor available to them. They are confident and assured in saying so, and make art and dance without any restraining self awareness because, hell, they’re amazing at it. How could they not be? Filled with the confidence available to all of us when we’re freed of external expectation and assessment, their work is good purely because it comes from them.
We’re all born with this sense of power and creative abililty, and yet so few of us can express ourselves this way as adults. So what happens?
Sometime pretty early in our societies—possibly around the age of 6, maybe earlier, though possibly a little later too—this confidence in our creative abilities is squashed. Through the process of conventional schooling and cultural assessment, art and creative things becomes something you’re either ‘good at’ or ‘not good at’, entirely determined by outside forces and not at all influenced by your own enjoyment of the process or trust in your own perfection. Dancing no longer represents a liberated physical expression of self but is assessed for how effectively your movements approximate those of the majority or a particular ideal. Art has to look like something deliberate. Music must fall within the confines of a particular harmonic or chord progression or style. And so on.
We lose our ability to express our creative urges without constraints or judgement because we’re attempting to fit into a norm (this is what school is all about, pretty much), and so, for most of us, this translates as a resignation that sounds a lot like this:
“….well, I’m just not a creative person.”
From this point instead of exploring our creative potentials any further, we seek a career that doesn’t appear to require a lot of creative expression, thinking that we’re just not ‘gifted’ with creative abilities.
Now, I believe that the world needs accountants. And businessmen. And politicians. And many other roles and activities that we don’t necessarily relate to ‘artistic’ endeavours. I don’t think that we all need to exist as otherworldly existential painters and poets in order for our life to have meaning, but, we need to recognize as a society that even as we are mathematically inclined or totally in love with taxes there is always, no matter what, the need for creativity in our lives.
In losing our ability to think of ourselves as incredible painters and dancers we lose not only these ‘fringe’ qualities, but also our ability to think of ourselves as ‘creators’ of our lives. This loss is reflected in our inability to take responsibility or positive action in everything from our health and well-being to the effects we have on other people around us. It is a loss that untethers a general sense of personal power from our being, making it far easier for us to think of ourselves as victims, whether it is of our social systems, genetics, circumstances, or what have you. We lose the power to determine our path.
But the reality is that you are a creative genius. This label has nothing to do with your ability to paint or draw, or how well you can string words together in a sentence, but is accurate because you alone may determine what you think about life. You have this wonderful mind, body, and spirit that are supplying you with a path of revelation that is unique to you, and which present you with an experience that no other person has ever nor will ever experience again. You’re the boss. You’re the creator. You hold within you the potential to do whatever the hell you want, and this is only restricted by how much you have internalized the nonsense of the world around you, or how much you have bought into the idea that your creativity is limited or nonexistent.
Our individual creativity surpasses anything that society may label or judge, but may only be engaged and fully utilized by embodying your full potential. You do this by actively choosing your thoughts (‘creating’ your experience), determining and fulfilling your preferences (becoming the full, explored expression of you, you wonderful thing, you), and by expressing the talent and possibility within.
We are all born with immense potential. Possibility that is light years beyond anything that can be tested in school or judged by an outside source, and up until the age of about four we know this. We walk out into the world saying hell yes I make good art, because we are filled with the sensation that we are meaningful and uniquely important, not because our creations have been judged to be esthetically pleasing or in line with the current trend. We know our power and that we are god’s of our own existence.
So long as we are collectively agreeing with this current educational system we cannot expect our children (or ourselves) to be able understand our own potential. We can't expect our societies to function well, or for us to be able to understand and embody the interconnectedness that is the truth of our existence on this planet. We can't fully mature until we know the truth of our creative potential.
As a society we have to actively seek to remove our minds and hearts from this oppressive and absurd way of living (and educating), and to summon the courage to stand up for our own immense creative talent and unique experience of the world. We have to demand that our children be taught first of their innate creative powers and personal potential, and then be exposed to the possibility that, sure, some people are just super gifted when it comes to one thing or another. But to still maintain that somewhere within we’re all gifted at one (or more) incredible things, and our job here is not to fit a niche in the social system where we might be needed as a cog, but to express that internal brilliance in whatever way we're called to.