Archive for category Creativity
The average player sprints until the breath in him is gone, but a champion has the iron will that makes him carry on. For the rest, the average player begs when limp his muscles grow, but the champion runs on leaden legs; his spirit makes him go. The average player is complacent when he does his best to score, but a champion gives his very best and then gives a little more.” – Unknown
“Get real!” It is part of our growing up process, to discover the limitations of of our physical body. When we touch fire it burns, yet we also know that it is possible to walk on fire and not get burnt. So often in our lives we are told we must except our limitations in quiet submission. Often we find ourselves faced with what seems impossible odds that stands in our way to achieving our dreams. So easily we give up when we encounter blocks upon our path, and we tell ourselves that life just isn’t fair, just except that you haven’t been among the “chosen”. In bitterness we give up and live a life in blame and longing for what could have been. “If only …”
There are those that see limitations as impossible odds, and never dare to strive beyond it, just because no one has ever gone there before. However if we as human beings truly believed in limitations, we would never as a specie progressed beyond the stone age. If we did find ourselves born knowing that we have no limitations, what would you aspire to? It is the boundaries of physical limitations that allows us to experience life, allows us to find our hidden strengths.
“The rules of a game are limitations created so you can play the game … Creative limitations (the limitations we are born with or find on our way) allows us to improve our creative abilities by enforcing a focus on a certain range and interpretations of experience. Even in the limited game of chess, human minds have still not figured out all the possibilities.” Serge Kahili King
One of the many, many wonderful things about being South African, is that all around us there are abundant stories of people who, against all odds, despite severe limitations, went on to live remarkable lives of inspiration. One such person was Hamilton Naki, a Laboratory surgeon who defied the odds. The following is an obituary by Chris Barron as it was published in The Sunday Times June 5 2005.
Hamilton Naki, who has died in Cape Town at the age of 78, was a gardener who became a brilliant laboratory surgeon and helped Chris Barnard do the research that made his first heart transplant possible.
He also trained generations of surgeons; many of whom reached top academic positions at teaching hospitals around the world. At least a dozen of Naki’s former students became professors of surgery and heads of departments in places as far afield as Japan and the US.
Naki was born in the district of Centani in the Transkei on June 13 1926, and attended school up to Std 4 (So, he did not even complete his primary school education). In the mid ’40s, when he was about 18, he went to Cape Town and got a job rolling tennis courts and gardening at the University of Cape Town.
He had been there for several years when a professor of surgical research, Robert Goetz, beckoned him to his lab to help him hold a giraffe that he was dissecting (in order, as it happened, to discover why giraffes never faint when they bend down to drink).
Naki made such an impression on Goetz that he invited him to help in the lab on a regular basis.
He learnt how to anaesthetise animals, including giraffes, and put intravenous lines into them. He assisted with experimental surgery and looked after the animals post-operatively.
Naki was one of very few people who could anaesthetise a pig and transplant its liver, virtually single-handed.
A former surgical professor remembers how he even managed to rock her crying baby’s pram while he was doing all this.
He became the lab’s assistant surgeon and soon there was very little senior surgeons could do that Naki couldn’t.
In the ’50s he worked with Barnard in the laboratory, establishing techniques of open- heart surgery on dogs. It was this research that Barnard took into the clinical setting at Groote Schuur Hospital.
Naki was intimately involved in heart, liver, kidney and other transplant research throughout this critically important pioneering period that led to the first heart transplant.
He did a lot of this work himself while Barnard was practising.
When he was asked once how he had acquired all his surgical skills without any formal training, Naki replied: “I stole with my eyes.”
In addition to his prodigious memory, he had excellent co-ordination and very good hands.
Not the least of Naki’s contributions to medical history was his ability to get on with Barnard, whom many people found impossibly highly strung and temperamental.
Naki’s temperament, one of infinite tolerance and patience, complemented the explosive heart surgeon’s perfectly and the two were able to work shoulder to shoulder for years.
The only serious altercation anyone remembers Naki having was with an appallingly difficult Belgian registrar in the university’s department of surgery.
He was the only person Naki ever decided he simply could not work with.
What made him a fine teacher was that, in addition to his patience, he had a strong personality and didn’t tolerate any slovenliness or laziness from student surgeons. He set very high standards and left students in no doubt that he expected these to be met.
Naki lived alone in appalling conditions, in a tiny room in quarters for migrant workers, in the black township of Langa on the Cape Flats. His family stayed in the Transkei.
He was the first person in the lab every morning, never arriving later than 6am. It was his responsibility to sterilise the instruments with boiling water.
He left at around 4.30pm.
During the politically inspired riots that characterised the history of Cape Town, he’d come to work at 3am to avoid rioters and roadblocks.
He always arrived and left in an impeccably pressed suit with a Homburg on his head and shoes you could see your reflection in. He carried an umbrella, a newspaper and a Bible.
He was deeply religious, and read his Bible whenever he could. At lunchtime he would gather the “bergies” (homeless people in the Cape, that got their name originally from living in the mountain ;berg-mountain) who spent their days in the cemetery behind the medical school, read the Bible to them and warn them about the evils of alcohol and dagga(Cannabis sativa).
Naki was paid as a lab technician soon after he began working in the lab, and eventually as a senior lab technician, which was as high as the university could take him under apartheid laws.
In 2003, UCT recognised his extraordinary achievement by awarding him an honorary master’s degree in medicine.
When he retired he arranged a mobile clinic — a converted bus — for his home district of Centani, which was 70km from a health service of any kind.
He also collected money for a rural school in the Eastern Cape from doctors he had trained. He would visit these doctors once a year and they knew when they saw him that there was no getting out of it.
A few weeks after Naki’s visit, they would each get a letter of thanks from the school principal.
Naki is survived by his wife, Joyce, and four children. — Chris Barron
“What nearly all successful people have in common is an extraordinary ability to bond with others, the ability to develop rapport with people from a variety of backgrounds and beliefs. Deep down, everyone needs to form lasting bonds with others. Without that, any success, any excellence, is hollow indeed. The way we communicate with others and the way we communicate with ourselves ultimately determines the quality of our lives. People who succeed in life are those who have learned how to take any challenge life gives them and communicate that experience to themselves in a way that causes them to successfully change things. People who fail take adversities of life and accept them as limitations. The people who shape our lives and our cultures are also masters of communication to others. What they have in common is an ability to communicate a vision or a quest or a joy or a mission.” Anthony Robbins
Whenever I find myself becoming despondent by the limitations that I face, I just have to lift my head up and look around me, and I will see that my limitations are creative limitations to spur me on beyond where I thought myself possible to go.
With your touch I quivered
like a string of a harp
be it sound
be it colour
be it form
be it fragrances
your touch released
a quivering emanation
from my heart
and in that quivering
I was transformed
Throughout the history of Mankind mystics have expressed the transforming interaction with the Divine through the arts. Art and Science are actually not as different as it may appear to. Both is a process of discovery; of revealing what was hidden, yet was there all along. All of the discoveries, inventions and creations, the world values, came from passionate minds. Someone felt a hunger; a love for something and from that interaction, birth was given to something not seen before. The hunger to create is akin to the erotic desire.
” Erotic energy is the eternal source of creativity. The erotic shock is the way of revealing beauty in the world.” Nicholas Berdyaev
Each one of us, and indeed everything within existence, sings a silent song of yearning to be discovered. It is through our silent songs that we draw towards us the other, the beloved. To be loved is to be made visible. Within in each of us there is a deep longing to be made visible. That is, we long for something or someone to recognize that which is invisible behind our exterior form and to make it visible through the intimate touch. To be touched means to let down your guard and be stirred through the interaction with something that you perceived to be outside of your self. Yet, through the touch that which was perceived to be separate from you becomes part of you. For to be touched is to experience. To experience is to know something.
Dry intellectual knowledge can only bring you to the first layer of understanding, whereas wisdom is the essence of understanding. There are some that say that true intellect should be defined as an ability to interact with the world around you. To reach out is a gesture of wanting to understand. Wisdom is born out of this reaching out and interacting with the world around us, and through this an inner reflection, an inner understanding of the whole is born. One could say that out of the bitterness (Mara) of experience, the sweetness of wisdom is born.
In Ancient Egypt the word Ais is for brain intellect, and Sia for intelligence of the heart, in other words intuition. Intuition literally means “knowledge coming in.” Yet neither wisdom nor intellectual knowledge can be gained without love, for to know something there first need to exist a desire, a love for something, for if you feel love for something there is a need to unite with what you love. In uniting with something, or at least a reaching out towards something an understanding is brought about. Knowledge means to unite oneself with the object, concept or idea, one requires to understand, hence the term carnal knowledge.
In the experience of life we taste and absorb experience as nourishment of the soul. Experience is true communion when we live consciously. Sweetness and bitterness both alike enrich our being and creates depth to our insights and brings us wisdom that have grown through the tasting of life. A beautiful perfume is not created through sweet fleeting scents only; it is composed out of blending fragrances of different qualities together to create beautiful silent poetry. Some of the scents within the composition may indeed be repulsive on its own but without it the whole composition would not be beautiful, and once you experience what its hidden qualities are, – what it brings to the whole – you can never again perceive that element as ugly. What is more, through that experience your whole perception of how you view the world is changed, because you can never again reject something as ugly out of hand, as that experience will prompt you to look for the hidden beauty in everything you encounter.
“Some say that the world is a vale of tears.
I say it is a place of soul making.”
Consider the prodigious physical and evolutionary studies of Teilhardt de Chardin, which conclude that love is the underlying movement and pattern behind the universe: atoms calling each other in search of union so that they begin to constellate and form molecules; molecules in resonance yearning for the Beloved of the next stage so that they can form more complex systems; these systems yearning to form bodies; bodies attuning until they find their partner and produce more bodies with more complexities. We yearn for the gods and the gods yearn for us, so that as we are becoming enspirited, godded beings, the gods are becoming human. Likewise, earth and nature long for spirit, and spirit longs for nature; out of this longing emerges a deeply physicalized spirituality and a deeply spiritual embodiment … Consider, too, process philosopher Alfred North Whitehead’s philosophy of God as the loving lure of becoming the Divine Lover calling the world into becoming, as any great and true lover does with any beloved.Psychologist Jean Houston
“Mathematical cosmologist Brain Swimme and cultural historian Thomas Berry write of a cosmic allurement that is the bond of all matter and what we humans experience as love. It is this lure between things that drives evolution. Love is what evokes in us the desire to make our own next evolutionary leap as a species. The longing to find and join with the beloved of the soul is the allurement that pulls us toward becoming fully human. “Bill Plotkin
It is this allurement that entices us out of our cocoons of isolation, and allows us to experience life. In the experience of life we taste and absorb experience as nourishment of the soul. Its sweetness and bitterness both alike enrich our being and creates depth to our insights and brings us wisdom that has grown through the tasting of life.
The longing to experience life is, thus to know or to have Gnosis of something, is a creative drive. Creativity and sexuality is inseparable for to long to have knowledge of something is to yearn to have carnal knowledge of something. Experience itself is a result of our desire to interact with the world, and as such is a relationship with the other. Our desire seduces us to court what attract us, and so the dance begins. We can have a beautiful soulful relationship with life or we can have a destructive blaming/victim relationship with life; and of course with ourselves.
What do we love, what draws us to risk being exposed to the unknown, the other, the Beloved?
“… your name is perfume poured out…” – Song of Songs
What stirs, excites, and delight us like a beautiful fragrance? Is that not the quest of our lives to know? When we know what is that excites us like no other, we have a purpose for living, and when we pursue it with all of our hearts, we live with passion. When we express our love for our Beloved we reveal our innermost secret chamber, our core, and we live soulfully.
Draw me after you, and I will follow you eagerly.
Be my king and take me to your chambers. We will be happy together; we will extol your love more than wine; – Song of Songs
It is not fear that drives us to cross boundaries of previous limitations. It is desire that seduces us to cross boundaries and allow us to go where we would not have dared to go before. Yet, where it will lead you is a mystery.
We live in a world of quick fixes, instant gratification and have for most part indeed lost the magic of wonder and awe. When you allow something to unfold, you allow the divine breath to breathe its transforming magic upon it. An initial desire becomes more than could have been imagined in the beginning. It is as dance between two lovers. In today’s world there is a tendency to want to plan everything in exact detail from beginning to end. The unexpected is shunned because it does not fit into the plan. There is no allowance for the “winds of heavens” to play upon our experience of life. If we do not allow for the unexpected, we breathe the breath of death, for there is no room for growth.
I feel my lover’s caress
In the wind
I hear his whispers
In the rustle of the leaves
I feel his embrace
In the enfolding mist
I run my fingers cross the surface of the water
And feel the softness of his skin
The glint in his eyes
His gifts to me
The beauty of the moonlight on the sea
The colours of sunset
The fragrance of flowers
Yet he touches my soul
With eternal longing
And I like a mistress
Grateful for the moments of intimacy
From the moment that I became aware that I am, I became aware of three passions in me; Interaction with nature, a deep spiritual hunger, and a strong desire to express myself creatively. So strong was my creative abilities that there was never a question in any one’s mind as to which direction I should go. Many think that those who are blessed with a strong creative gift, has a kind of magic gift, for creativity seems to be a wild power, that often possess those whom it blesses.
Artists also tend to die young, making it imperative that they gather rosebuds while they may. Poets die younger than any other sort of artist, and younger even than deep-sea divers.” – Sunday Times, London.
I have observed in the present times that a subtle change is happening in the creative fields. There appears to be a move to be in control of the creative passion, so as to not get destroyed in the process. It does involve being a responsible conveyor of the creative energy. Although every fiber in me oozes with creativity, I have no intention of dying young. (Well, its too late anyway.)
Creative energy can be harnessed like any other, if you know how to. It is learning to ride the dragon. In spiritual terms the creative energy is called the serpent energy, the Kundalini. Learning to harness our creativity in a disciplined way is indeed the Alchemical Hieros Gamos – the Sacred Marriage between right and left brain.
In my experience the creative impulse and inspiration is akin to the experience of love. In the creative process, you have an inspiration (first stage of love – infatuation). Then you have to decide how to implement the inspiration in practical terms. (Deciding whether it should be a long-term relationship or just a flash in the pan.) Then starts the hard work of materializing the ideal concept. (Relationship settles down into practical living.) This part of the process is often painful and the final artwork will only be produced if the artist believes enough in the original concept to endure the actual creative process from its conception to birth. In this part of the process the actual material medium (physical environment) brings unexpected challenges that have to be navigated to ensure completion. These challenges in themselves bring resolution that enhances the original concept. At the completion of an artwork or creative project one always stands back in wonder to see how the original concept has evolved into something so much more than could have been perceived originally. The process of love is like that, but only if you remain open throughout the process (no matter how painful and challenging) to the flow of creativity (or love) will the original concept be brought into fruition, to full flowering. Every creative person knows that fears and doubts restrict the flow of creativity.
For me creativity is thinking off the beaten track. When someone tells me that they are not a creative person, I will always point out to them that every human being is creative; it is just that we express creativity in different ways. Some of us are encouraged to think creatively, others have had their creativity and passion suppressed. Unleashing our creativity enriches every part of our lives. It is tapping into the right brain with its limitless potential, and indeed in my opinion where the future of human potential lies.
Tapping into our wild power, the creative power, will benefit even those who have no desire to become an artist or do any creative work.
“When the artist is alive in any person, whatever his kind of work may be, he becomes an inventive, searching, daring, self-expressive creature. He becomes interesting to other people. He disturbs, upsets, enlightens, and opens ways for better understanding. Where those who are not artists are trying to close the book, he opens it and shows there are still pages possible.” – Robert Henri – The Art Spirit
The potential force of the creative, imaginative side of your brain is limitless, and through creatively expressing yourself you can come to know this powerful self and make it known to others. Through exercising your creative abilities you are made visible.
The German artist Albrecht Dürer said, “From this, the treasure secretly gathered in your heart will become evident through your creative work.”
Perhaps this also explains the ancient legends of dragons guarding the treasure. Finding the treasure through exploring our creativity is finding the treasure hidden in ourselves. Those finding that there is an emptiness in their lives, an inner hunger, will find that their souls are calling to work on the forge of their own hearts, to create a life of passion and purpose. The Blacksmith has been since ancient times symbolic of the Alchemist, since all four elements are used in metal-working, and to create a healthy and balanced life we must work with the power of the four elements. To work in the forge of your own heart in order to create a life of passion and purpose, based on beauty and dignity; one must work with the air of your mind, the water of your heart, the earth of your instinct(body) and the fire of your spiritual passion(intuition/creativity). When mental discipline are applied to the life energies, transformation can occur.
Gustav Klimt – The Kiss
Life often, present us with surprising twist and turns. Throughout the world you will find reference in Mythology to the Trickster. The Trickster has had a loads of fun with me, just when I become complacent, even smug in what I thought was personal achievements, the Trickster arrives, and forces me to laugh at myself, reduce me to humbleness. Although my laughter has been in bitterness at the time, it has always stopped me dead in my tracks, and shown me a perspective I would not have considered at the time.
Among the Sioux tribes, a select few members of the tribe volunteers to be-come a Heyhoka. It means one who has an obligation to do things differently from everyone else in order to break all patterns of habitual behaviour.
“Sometimes the Heyhoka’s actions are very humorous, because this is part of the technique for shattering a person’s perceptions of, and participation in, the everyday routines of life. To break through the habitual enables one to take some distance from oneself – to see things a little bit more objectively, and thereby on a higher level.” – Epes Brown – Biographer of Black Elk (Himself a Heyhoka)
One of the chief causes of psychological aging is habituation. Psychologist Dr. Robert Kastenbaum has the theory that as we grow older we develop a gradual decrease of response to persistent stimulation – habituation – ‘a mental reducing valve’. “It is a reduction of our consciousness as well as our senses, a process in which ordinary stimuli of life, the simple pleasures and small joys, lose their flavour over time by sheer repetition.”
“Habituation is assuming without understanding, judging without weighing, reacting from bias rather than evident fact. It is a reduction of our awareness rather than an expansion of our consciousness.” Harry Moody
So the world becomes stale and stagnates under limited perception and ages. Here is where the Heyhoka, the trickster comes in., to turn your world upside down, so that you can see a with fresh eyes, and grow. It is a vital part of Longevity. All Centanariums have one thing in common, open minds and a positive out look on life.
In story of Demeter and Persephone (Kore) Arnobius relates: “ Baubo… received Ceres, wearied with complicated evils, as her guest, and endeavoured to soothe her sorrows … she entreated her to pay attention to the refreshment of her body, and placed before her (kykeon) to assuage the vehemence of her thirst…” Being unable to divert Demeter, Baubo then uncovered her vagina: “ upon which the goddess fixed her eyes, and was delighted with the novel method of mitigating anguish of sorrow; and afterwards became cheerful through laughter …” Demetra George
Like Heyhoka, Baubo uses the gift of humour to lift the spirits, giving Demeter the reminder of renewal and regeneration. In the same way The trickster comes to show us that there is always more to learn in life, deeper to go. We can become complacent in our sorrow, in our achievements, or in our cynicism.
My favourite interpretation of the ultimate meaning behind the Tarot card The Magus comes from The Fool or the Trickster;
There was once a magician of great standing and reverence, who called his apprentice, who had completed his apprenticeship.
“My son, you are now schooled in the High Art. I welcome you into our fellowship.”
The apprentice glowed with pride.
“You now think you know everything and have learn t all you can … But you will know, in time, that you had to learn everything to know that it is all of no use. The Divine joke is that many years of magical training are finally discovered to be quite irrelevant. But this truth is only gained by experience, and not through discussion or mere play of words.
Heyhoka, gives us the opportunity to again experience the world anew, “With windows of perception cleansed.”
In our everyday lives, it is focused attention that helps us from becoming habitual. The Kahunas use a form of meditation or rather contemplation called Nalu, to strengthen awareness. The word means “to form waves.” The essence of the technique is a gentle, effortless resting of attention and awareness. You just look, listen and feel, with an attitude of positive expectation … without judgment while maintaining your focus on a subject. With this technique new insights can received on ordinary experiences of living.
“Be aware, be free, be focused, be here, be loved, be strong, be healed.”