Creativity is a type of learning process where the teacher and the student
are located in the same individual.
– Arthur Koestler
pulped and sculpted Arches watercolor paper, gold lurex thread, pearls, gold beads
This whole adventure of creativity is about joy and love.
We live for the pure joy of being
and out of that joy unfolds the ten thousand art forms
and all the branches of learning and compassionate activity.
– Stephen Nachmanovitch
Beginner’s Mind: some personal observations on the art of observing, from naturalist Thomas Eisner.
How is it, I am often asked, that I make discoveries? I always feel a bit awkward about answering the question, because I do not have a particular method. The truth is that I spend a fair amount of time looking around. I already knew as a boy that if I wanted to see things happen – if I wanted to win the revelatory lottery of nature – I had to buy a lot of tickets. So it was in my youth that I formed the habit of taking exploratory walks, whenever possible and as often as possible, for the sole purpose of “eaves-dropping” on nature. Naturalists thrive on such walks, driven by curiosity and the hope of witnessing chance events. Taken at face value, such events may not amount to much. But they may “connect” to what you already know, to previous observations stored away in your memory, and thus take on added meaning. There has to be a constant readiness to make such connections. Every tidbit of new information, no matter how trivial, has the potential of amounting to more than a speck of colour. Properly assigned to the pointillist canvas that constitutes your inner view of the natural world, the new speck adds dimension to the vision.
… I have been extremely lucky in having nature reveal itself on occasion through chance events in my presence. I can remember as if it were yesterday witnessing for the first time Utetheisa being cut from a spider web, or Chrysopa dressing itself as an aphid, or Ammophila carrying a “flower,” and I yearn for future occasions when I may again be granted unexpected glimpses into the workings of nature. One of the great joys of returning to your natural haunts time and again, is that you have the opportunity of grasping the broader image. Observations tend then to become cumulative, to be evocative and revelatory in ways that are not possible until you begin to feel at home in the area. For the naturalist, in fact, feeling at home means having achieved a biological appreciation of a region.
– Thomas Eisner
For the Love of Insects
This is the final of three brief extracts from book eight – creating from wonder – in my series of free e-books: empty canvas : wondering mind
In her book The Quantum Self, Danah Zohar posits that creativity is the dynamic of unfolding consciousness. If, as she proposes, the unfolding consciousness of reflecting human beings forms the bridge between the contemporary world with its fragmentation, alienation, inhumanity, and the “reconciled universe” of coherence, integration and meaning, then it is clear that we need to stop ignoring the beckoning call of creative acting and thinking. We need to start asking some “What if …?” questions about what we presume creativity to be, and why we aren’t able to experience it in a sustained way in every aspect of our lives. There are few better ways of doing that than by engaging in practical encounters with the processes involved in looking, seeing and making.
creating from wonder brings to synthesis all the experiences we’ve had as we moved through the previous 8 books in the empty canvas – wondering mind series. It closes the circle. It brings us back to the wonder of perception and to the space in which that-which-is can speak. But we arrive there richer in every way – richer in insight, in technique, and in our ability to play with the unfamiliar. The empty canvas is our lover, at last.
We have thought hard, questioned hard, and played hard. Now we can bring our new perceptions and perspectives to larger projects – projects that unfold from the activities of the previous chapters. We have established some basic ways of looking and working that we can apply to themes, without being blinded by their abstract qualities or our notions of what we ought to do.
There are fourteen projects in creating from wonder. How you choose to approach them is up to you. They don’t follow any sequence, but you’ll notice that they each relate, in some way, to one (or more) of the previous books. You could start at the first one and work your way through the lot, or simply pick and choose those that have some special appeal. Any of these projects make good workshop activities – they can be explored as deeply as you are inclined to dig, and since there are no ideal outcomes, the need for an authoritative leader is redundant.
1 unfold your myth
2 veritable vestments
4 the heart of the story
5 animated grey matter
6 a sanctuary for the secret senses
7 playing with process
8 metaphorically speaking
9 objets trouvés
10 deconstructing and recycling
12 quantum realities
13 culture and creativity
14 the three questions
– miriam louisa simons
This is the second of three brief extracts from book eight – creating from wonder – in my series of free e-books: empty canvas : wondering mind
Marvel and wonder go hand-in-hand, and their offspring is true learning. One of the most exciting things about the kind of activity that occurs in the art room, (the educating art room), is that it is firmly grounded in experimental processes. We are, as novice or professional artisans, deeply involved in both wonder and wondering.
Questions are the life-blood of the artisan, and the prime question in any artisan’s mind is “What if …?” This is a question that makes many parents and teachers wince. At the same time, it’s the one that generates exploration and experimentation in the fields of science, sports, philosophy – what area of human endeavor can be excluded from its penetrating, “But perhaps…”?
The “What if …?” of wondering mind is the fuel for any investigation into creativity.
Blind Men on a Log Bridge
By Hakuin Ekaku
(The Gitter Collection)
Hakuin’s painting is a beautiful depiction of the creative process.
Two blind travellers are crossing a river on a bridge made from a floating log. Imagine the courage, the focus, the risk! Arms reach out to probe for stability, feet follow one tentative step at a time. Balance is maintained, but only by ruthless presence in the moment. What if a wave rolls the log ? What if it is flooded over? What if someone is approaching? What if it’s too short, too narrow, too rotten?
The blind men just keep going.
This is so often the way we feel when faced with the empty canvas. We struggle to find a foothold. We feel we haven’t a clue as to what we’re doing or where we’re going.
Well, the good news is that this is exactly how we will feel, if genuine creative expression is our priority.
– miriam louisa simons
This is the first of three brief extracts from book eight – creating from wonder – in my series of free e-books: empty canvas : wondering mind
wonder is a wonderful word to wonder about:
wonderful – wondrous – a wonder – with wonder – to wonder – wondering –
to do wonders – wonderland – wonderment – wonder-worker – wonderstruck…
We can talk about wonder and wondering in so many ways – it’s one of those English words that baffle foreign language students. We call something ‘a wonder’ when it is an astonishing thing or accomplishment like the Seven Wonders of the World, or when it is miraculous like the birth of a babe. It is also the “emotion excited by the perception of something novel and unexpected, or inexplicable.” And sometimes this emotion of astonishment can be “mingled with perplexity or bewildered curiosity.” (Shorter Oxford Dictionary) And again, it’s the state of mind in which these emotions are held. When we observe something marvelous, wonder-full, we are filled with wonder, which is like being infused with awe.
But then we sometimes say “I wonder…” and there is a shift in meaning. To simply say, “I wonder…” usually implies doubt. Yet to preface a phrase with “I wonder if…” is to imply curiosity. In French, one says “Je me demand…” – I ask myself. Then it implies that I’m going to explore, to inquire in and of myself about something. The way I’ve used the word wondering in this book embraces all these meanings. For to wonder in the sense of exploring, with doubt and curiosity, is to never be far from the wonder of marvel. Perhaps the greatest wonder of all is that we have the ability to wonder, to reflect. And to have that capacity as a natural by-product of being alive is simply amazing.
Marvel and wonder go hand-in-hand, and their offspring is true learning. [Continued…]
– miriam louisa simons