In order to understand our world better, we break it into pieces. We specialize and narrow our view until we know more and more about less and less. This is the age of the scientist and the specialist, generalists are lightly regarded. We teach that way. We heal that way. We pray that way.
We hope, somewhere along the way, that some creative and gifted teacher can help us to reassemble all the pieces into something that works for us.
It starts in school where they teach grammar apart from literature, geometry from algebra and philosophy apart from religion. They forget to teach why each subject is related to the other, and focus on standardized tests, instead. Too bad the real world isn’t a series of multiple choice tests! In medicine, we break the body into pieces, parts and syndromes, we isolate, medicate and operate. We hope the pharmacist knows enough to make sure we don’t let our doctors work against each other. In religion we each claim God, made in our image, and dismiss the beliefs of others.
We pit accountants against marketers, artists against engineers and left brain against right brain. We label and diminish people to bumper stickers with words like “liberal,” ”conservative,” “spiritual,” “religious,” etc… We define all others by our own ego.
Only artists can put it all back together for us. A great painting shows us that the people we read about were human, a poet tells us that historical figures felt the same emotions we do and a great song is timeless. In every organization there are artists and philosophers who have slipped past the suits who have the wisdom, perspective and talent to help us understand how it all fits together.
So many times we are asked to compare and contrast and we only focus on the contrast. It’s our way. It happens in religion, in politics, in relationships. We focus on our differences instead of our similarities. Imagine if we began every serious discussion, negotiation or relationship by focusing and valuing what we have in common first. What if we sought to understand each other instead of yelling at each other?
I’ve been drawn to eastern philosophies for this reason. What I like about the eastern way, religion, medicine, and otherwise, is that they look at the whole. Japanese companies have 100 year business plans. Eastern medicine is considered “wholistic” by Westerners, as if there is an alternative. (It’s also called alternative medicne.) Short term profits, test results and personal short term victories become incidental when you take the wholistic approach. The trouble is, it requires a release of ego.
I oftent think about the men who built the Cathedrals of Europe. How must it have felt to begin the process of building something that would take 200 hundred years to complete? It took artists to start projects like this, people who saw the big picture. It took faith, an understanding that your life’s meaning is entirely one of service and creation. (And really hard work.) How much hope must the bricklayers have placed on the artist’s drawing of the completed building, one their great-great grandchildren might get to see?
In this day and age of 140 character communications, it is incumbent upon the artists to show us how we relate, to save us. Our country needs leaders, it needs honest artists who see through the self interest and compartmentalized knowledge to tie it all together. Why might Being Creative Save Your Life? Because we’ve tried it the other way and it isn’t exactly working out. Art can change hearts by helping us to see that we are all creations of the same creator, that the world is there for us to leave our legacy and that we are all brothers and sisters.