As daylight hours shrink and the news expands our worries, perhaps we’re all looking for spiritual and inspirational light more often these days. When fear’s giant shadow blocks our view, we’re left wondering what we have to hope for. When the unknown and the unthinkable preoccupy our minds, we yearn to invest our energy carving out safe and known refuges, gathering with cherished friends and family, and shoring up our strength with familiar beliefs, traditions and rituals. We need big magic now.
Inside of us all, creativity holds the keys to break our bonds and build delight. Creativity is the relationship between a human being and the mysteries of inspiration. I’ve been savoring Elizabeth Gilbert’s latest book, “Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear.” Listening to the audiobook, I hear the author’s voice as she shares her thoughts about courage, enchantment, permission, persistence, trust, and divinity. By turns, she questions; she is irrational; she is intuitive; she cajoles; she convinces; she doubts; she motivates. She fights fear. She reminds us that, wrapped in the humanity we share, we all have sparks of creativity to nurture.
In Florida, four snowy egrets daily explore the familiar tideline, looking for tidbits to eat. One day, they notice a man has set up his chair in their neighborhood. Curious, they don’t venture too far from the new guy, but watch and wait to see what happens. Bam! Reel spins. Fish caught. Man gets fish. Lessons learned? The creative yellow-booted birds vary their routine, settle in and wait for the human with the fishing rod and casting net to bring fish their way. Dinner has a new angle with this deal which is struck. “Bring me fish or I’ll poop on your bag. Heck, I might poop on your bag anyway.”
Finding the courage to raise our sights to the unconsidered, to become fascinated with a new way of looking at our normal world, to allow a new way of doing things to plant a foothold in our thoughts, to nurture and handle creative inspiration over simple convenience and routine, we break from the ordinary. Whether we take the alternate path, the road less travelled, the fastest route, or the long way around, our perspective shifts.
Witness the smash Broadway musical, “Hamilton.” Lin-Manuel Miranda’s new and creative take on American history is composed and sung in rap and hip hop, performed by cast members, most of whom are black or Latino, who are passionate about the project. Miranda has “made these dead white guys make sense to a bunch of, you know, black and brown people,” Leslie Odom, Jr. says. “He’s made them make sense in the context of our time, with our music.” Watching a recent interview, I found myself thinking of big magic at work, as Miranda admits, “Sometimes a line enters your head and you’re so grateful for it. You go online to check to see if anyone wrote it before you. You must have stolen it.” How to tackle Alexander Hamiton’s own way wih words? Miranda’s vision and aspirations aim to soar high. “He needed to be, like, from the future, just this world-beating intellect, so every couplet had to be unimpeachable.” Here’s big magic taking the world by storm.
Creativity and imagination also combat our suspicious mind’s work. Today I read this Publishers Weekly Picks comment for Rob Brotherton’s book, “Suspicious Minds: Why We Believe Conspiracy Theories.” “Brotherton illustrates how incomplete, contradictory, coincidental, and incongruent information can allow people to see conspiracies and connections where there are none, due in part to the theories’ plausibility and humans’ innate desire for order, as well as a given individual’s understanding of how the world works. Put simply, people want to believe.” The flip side of the suspicious mind’s coin is the willingness to open up to unseen possibilities and truths so we can see and believe forgotten, unrevealed or genuinely new perspectives.
In these turbulent days, we may not be able to process the suffering we see unfolding, or to forgive actions inspiring fear’s shadows to loom powerfully over our days. We can have hope if we use our creative lights to connect with each other, to decide who we wish to be, to try and understand what it is to be human and to love life. Dare to make your own big magic.
Thanks to Sherry Boas for the photo and tale of the snowy egrets.