Creativity and competition

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Country road in Provence by Night,  Vincent Van Gogh, !890

 

Vincent Van Gogh severed his ear when he got into a fight with Paul Gaugin, a friend and a fellow artist. He painted a picture of himself with a bandaged ear and died regarded as a pauper and madman. Paul Gaugin fared hardly any better in his lifetime. And yet now, their art is seen as priceless.

In music, Salieri was better regarded than Mozart… and yet Mozart lives today when the only place one gets to hear Salieri’s music is in Amadeus, the movie on Mozart’s life.

The Great Gatsby by F. scott Fitzgerald was regarded as ‘ tawdry’ and ‘ absurd’ by the media when it was published and Joseph Conrad’s masterpiece, Heart of Darkness, was dismissed as a ‘minor’ work by critics. And yet both of these have later been made into Hollywood films and popularized.

Did these writers or artistes compete for the top billing?

I think not. But they created what they felt from the heart. They created with passion. They had no intention of double spacing or typifying their art forms or giving exams and fitting it into a mold so that it could get the first place or be selected for an exhibition or a book or magazine by a publisher.

Being a person who enjoys experimenting with words, enjoys the rhythm of them, the feel of them, the sensuality of them, the power they possess and the passion they can generate, I want to share why I do not feel creativity can be measured by competitions.

Creating for me is a form of worship. Each time I try to create perfection. And each time I fall short. Each word I write, each piece I write is from my heart. It is an offering to that energy of which we are all a part, of which each star, each planet is a part.

When I write a journalistic piece or a review, it is with a different perspective. It is written to inform. I have an editor who hones it to perfection for me. A piece that is published ceases to be mine.

Creation is different from publication or limelight. Creation is the process of ascending above the existing world and getting in touch with that part of yourself that wants to soar with endless freedom across the open spaces of the universe, that wants to burn like a flame and rise in a crescendo to a world that only can be described as ecstatic, to give a sense of boundlessness to the spirit…I try to capture this ecstasy in words. Sometimes, characters visit me in dreams. I have to write about them otherwise they keep haunting me. Sometimes lines come to me and if I do not put them down, I lose them. Then I feel incomplete and irritable. Thus, the need to create or express can be painful and intense. The outbursts of lines, colors and people happen naturally. They take me to that point from where I can see a world that is different from what most perceive.

When I was in my teens, my friends used to tease me that I viewed everything differently from others… now people tell me I live in a different world far removed from reality. But that is my reality.

Creativity can be seen as a form of madness or delusion that whirls and twirls you around the world, that helps you rise above the mundane and experience a joy that is beyond competitions and exams as well as torture you to perdition if the right words do not come your way. George Bernard Shaw does a good job of putting it in perspective,

“You see things; and you say, ‘Why?’ But I dream things that never were; and I say, ‘Why not’?”

When you try to relate that dream to others, you create an art form or a poem or a story or an essay…

That is why I feel creativity is beyond judgment, beyond competition.

Creativity just happens. Trying to earn ones living buying, selling or teaching creativity can be daunting. You can sell an idea, a piece of information, a painting that someone likes, a novel that many enjoy. These might be the products of the creative process.

When one competes to write a story or a poem for a competition only to win and starts looking for profits in creativity, one compromises oneself. A creative product may not be highly popular when it is born. People may or may not like your experience or the expression that one gives. The world may not be ready for it as yet. But if you can continue practicing the expression for the love or joy it generates or out of a sense of compulsion, maybe the masterpiece will happen.

The famous American writer, William Sidney Porter or O Henry, has written a story called The Last Leaf, which describes the whole process of creativity and masterpiece to perfection. The story is about a failed crusty old artist who painted the last leaf on a tree to give hope to a young artist and help her survive a bout of pneumonia. The young girl was under the delusion that she would die when the last leaf fell. Behrman, the old artist, has been described as such in the story.

Behrman was a failure in art. Forty years he had wielded the brush without getting near enough to touch the hem of his Mistress’s robe. He had been always about to paint a masterpiece, but had never yet begun it.”

He dies painting what one of the characters describes as his ‘masterpiece’.

And this is what I feel is a masterpiece, the swan song of our lives. Once you achieve it, perhaps it will be difficult to replicate… I do not know. Or, maybe, it can be repeated. Though I must say after reading all the wonderful Harry Potters, JK Rowling’s other books leave me dissatisfied.

Creativity should be viewed as Edgar Allan Poe’s Eldorado, elusive, mythical and enchanting… not for sale but something that many of us seek and do not find, the ultimate source of joy, not of mundane fame. It cannot be trapped into a bank vault. It is a divine union, a gift that fills our being with joy and light. There is nothing before or after. It is the gift that touches the beauty in our being, bringing us closer to the eternal Creator of all mankind. It is the song that flows from our soul, primeval, beautiful and fulfilling.

 

 

 

Medley

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Why is it...

It is all right to be different, not to be the same.
We are still all a part of the big game.

We still look at the sky each day
And see it brightened by the sun’s ray.
We still see the rainbow light up in delight
With the dust washed clean from our sight.
Violet, indigo, blue, green, yellow, orange and red
Bring happy thoughts to our head,
Thoughts that glide and thoughts that play,
Lightening our burdens by the day.
If the different colors light up our lives
And fill our being with happy smiles,
Then why its it when we are not the same
We get thrust out of the game?
Why is it the differences matter more
Than ideas that make us soar?
Why is it we fear and hate the unknown
Instead of learning and making it our own?

It is all right to be different, not to be the same.
We are still all a part of the big game.

That is why each sunrise
Brings colors and blue skies,
And each sultry, soft, starry night
Punctuates the darkness with a silvery light.
That is why we have calm and storm
And each bird, it’s own color and song
That sings, harmonises and celebrates
The bounty of this infinite space.

The Creators

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Jasper had spent more than three hours in outer space hovering between stations. He was starting to worry that he would run out of his supply of oxygen if he did not go for a refill. Yet, he was worried that the mind police somehow could have figured out things and might have spread their web to the outer rim filling stations. He decided to make a desperate bid to contact Jasmine. He focused his mind on her.

He was desperately looking for her in the mind stream. But, there was no response. There was so much chatter.

The mind police could sense Jasper in the stream. To entrap him within the stream, they created a chatter web. This would make it easier for them to trace his coordinates.

They were now near the cloud where the two mind policemen were keeping a lookout for Jasper. They knew Jasper had not descended and was not on earth. The mind police decided to use the outer space button to locate Jasper. They jammed on the button. They rose swiftly and suddenly higher and higher at a very high speed… Confronted with the bareness of outer space, they felt bewildered. However, they were still in touch with Jasper’s mind stream.

Every time they spotted a red vehicle,they tried to tally the number plate . The mind police had  a blue car.

As they circled around , they spotted Jasper’s car hovering near a space station. They went near the car and tried to lasso it from the back with a laser loop. But, Jasper still had his shield up. The laser bumped off. Jasper swerved. He realized he had been hit. He could see the blue car behind him. He recognized the car belonged to his assistant, Rudolf. But Rudolf would never hit him. He realized the mind police must have somehow got hold of the car and had traced him. Instantly, he quit the mind stream and zoomed away. He was a more practiced and adept driver than the mind police. The mind police followed him as he re-entered Earth’s atmosphere. He went behind thick rain clouds and disappeared again. He had managed to re-enter his hideout.

The mind police again lost him at his new coordinates. They decided to post some more guards at the new coordinates. What they did not know was this time unknowingly they had hit on the coordinates of his hideout. His hideout on the surface looked like a wild mountain.

Jasper felt the roof of his hideout close above him and heaved a sigh of relief as he got out of his vehicle.

Meanwhile, Jasmine, Jacaranda and Gorge followed Daedalus into his office. It was a huge dark cavern lit by fluorescent lights made of phosphorus. The office glowed with bright lights when it heard Daedalus’s voice. The lights were obviously voice-activated. With his fascination for technology, Daedalus experimented with science and magic to come up with unique products every now and then.

“So, tell me now…,”said Daedalus.

Jacaranda related all their adventures to him. Jasmine pitched in to explain how the issue had started.

“Well, I have one thing to say that you youngsters have a lot of spunk! I have one suggestion to make however. The moon is not as safe as you think. They technological dimension has a strong base there. So do some of the other dimensions, including the magical one. Rather, I think you should start thinking of involving the Lemurians. They are the only ones that can negotiate an amicable solution with the creator’s dimension. They are the only ones the creators fear,” said Daedalus.

“The Lemurians!” Said Jasmine. “I have never met one.”

“I cannot leave this isle without risking my very existence,” said Daedalus. “Otherwise, I would have come.”

“What do you mean … risking your existence?”

“Oh! You don’t know…,” said Jacaranda. “When the residents of isle of wonder leave this island, they lose their bodily existence and remain a only as a spirit, which can occasionally show up as ghosts in other dimensions. The souls here have been given eternal existence by a magic woven into the air of the island.”

“Wow!” Said Gorge. “That means I and Jolyn could live forever here…”

“You do have to face a governing council. It consists of people from magical dimension and the Lemurians. We do not want villains to find their way here. That is why there are spells to keep out souls with black hearts in the air too!” said Daedalus. “I have seen Lemurians only once in the governing council. They are seven to eight feet tall. They wear white robes and are peace-loving. They have powers beyond our comprehension and will always help people in need,” said Daedalus.

“Can we pinge to the Lemurian dimension?” asked Jasmine.

“I don’t see why not,” said Daedalus. “I had started work on pinging but abandoned it! Well good to see it taken up again. But, you can’t pinge from the maze as it is magic proof, technology proof and mind stream proof. Come, I will walk you out so that you can start onto the next lap of your journey.”

They again trooped out behind Daedalus, emerging this time outside the labyrinth, near the stream.

“You can pinge here,” said Daedalus. “I want to see you pinge.”

Jasmine took out the tong.

“Now, what is that?” said Daedalus.

“The pinging tongs,” replied the three simultaneously.

“Use it!”said Daedalus. “I want to see it done first.”

Gorge and Jacaranda held onto Jasmine’s shoulder as she clapped the tongs and the three disappeared.

“Hey ! Get back!”shouted Daedalus. “Now, I want to see the work that went into the tongs.”

But, the three were beyond his reach…

In the dragon’s cave in the magic dimension, things had calmed down. Jolyn was still pining for Gorge but the dragon prince had them all out in the garden involved in mind games so that they could hone their telepathic abilities. Jamie had started opening up. He seemed to be getting over his fears. Jacinth had started communicating very basic issues with JaJa using her mind. For instance, she could figure out when JaJa was hungry. She could give a simple command like ‘wait’. But, when a more complex command was needed, she had to take help from the dragon or Jamie.

Jolyn was starting to discover that women could do things too on their own, without men. In her dimension, women depended entirely on men. They did not work outside the home and had very less schooling. Talking to Jacinth, she was learning that men and women were equal and women could have opinions independent of the men in their lives. Jacinth had told her about Emmeline Pankhurst and how women had moved forward in her dimension.

Jolyn wondered how Gorge would react to her new discoveries. She missed Gorge very much all the time…his smile, his touch, his warmth…

 

 

 

 

 

Book of the week

imageTitle: Brave New World
Author: Aldous Huxley

Published in 1931, Brave New World has been rated as one of the most popular classics over time. To me, it is a book that is becoming alarmingly real in the current day context.

The protagonist, Bernard Max, suffers because he does not fit in. In a society where babies are mass produced in bottles and conditioned to fit their job description, Max is too short for an Alpha male, Alpha being the highest caste classification in the Brave New World. The classes go up to Epsilon. Epsilon creatures are almost sub-human twins. One Alpha or Beta is made from one fertilized embryo. In case of the others, each embryo is split into multiple embryos, given less gestation time and made so that they become subservient genetically. The Alphas and Beta are at the top,the white collared workers, the Gamma, Delta and Epsilons are blue collared workers who satisfy the needs of Alpha and Beta.

The civilized world sees family, marriage and parenting as obscene. The Alpha and Beta are also taught what to think through hypnopaedia,rhymes and games. Hypnopaedia, rhymes and games are used on all children  out off bottle and nurseries to educate them into civilised beings.

Towards the end the Controller, the ruler of the civilized, tells us that Happiness is never grand . To create a peaceful society after a chaos of nine years of war, the Ford (replaces God) and  the Controller take over the process of living. They controls births, deaths and even, human intelligence with the help of Bokanovsky’s process. The Controller makes sure the Alphas and Betas think right. If they think out of line, they are exiled to a distant islands, like Iceland and Falkland, where they can pursue their passion undisturbed by civilization.

Most of the civilzed view this as a punishment as they are kept happy with shallow entertainment, a few grammes of soma ( a hallucinogenic drug), and promiscuity. The society forgets to question any move of the Controller and lives lulled like in the land of lotus eaters. Literature, passion, religion, science, beauty have all been sacrificed for a  civilized society. Science is allowed only to serve the needs of the society as is literature, which is reduced to cheap, feelies, movies with physical sensations. Books, like Shakespare, the Bible, which can make people think or emote passionately are all banned. Wanting to be alone is seen as abnormal.The Controller explains

But industrial civilization is only possible when there is no self-denial. Self-indulgence up to the very limits imposed by hygiene and economics. Otherwise the wheels stop turning.

All this is told to a  savage, a child born naturally to civilized parents and brought up in an Indian reserve. He opts for leading his life away from the civilization of the Brave New World. Because he thinks differently, he is hounded even out of his isolation till he finally hangs himself in desperation.

What I find fascinating about this book is that when mass production was still at it’s infancy, Huxley could sense how it would generate a pop culture which would dominate mankind. He could sense that to be different would be an issue. Life would be so fast that people would have no time to think. Then are we heading towards Huxley’s nightmarish vision of a dystopian world?

Or, perhaps,  there is still hope. There has been something called a slow movement. I heard a TED talk by Carl Honore, the author of In Praise of Slowness(2004). He was talking of slowing down and taking time out for things that are important. Perhaps, if people slow down and start to think, we will find a way out to Make our earth an Eden, like the heaven above in Julia Carney’s words(1845) and move away from Huxley’s premonition of a dystopian civilization.

Beginning

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Stardust

In the galaxial world I float.
Dark, luminescent I soar
Through clouds of stardust.
Shooting stars whizz past.
I wish this eternity would last.
Auras of red and blue flash
As the distant nebulae clash
With the shine of the stars,
Making it into a fireworks night.
As I flit past the vast infinite
On my journey to explore the light
That gives this world it’s life.
Am I out there in the wilds
Of eternal space rides?
Or am I in the jungle deep
Of an unexplored reef,
With fishes that shine
Giving off luminescent light?
Strange shapes that lurk
In the darkness of the murk,
Oceans that lave
Into strange caves,
Caves that can be found on Mars
Among the far away distant stars…
And it all started with a few particles of dust
This fantastic, vibrant starburst
The ultimate creator of this universe!

Endless

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Evanescent

Two radiant particles of light,
Vibrant, strong, bright collide
Spraying out a rainbow of life,
Dancing in cosmic delight.
A kaleidoscope in flight,
Prismatic, effervescent,
Bubbling , evanescent,
Unfolding mysteries beyond time
Dissolving with the energy of strife.
Building, unbuilding,
Creating, uncreating,
In a flow of unending stream
A poem beyond the realm
Of mankind’s last dream
All that will remain is a lone beam,
Which will again restart
Creation’s eternal dance.

Book of the week

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Title: The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam
Author: Omar Khayyam(1048 to 1141)
Translator: Edward Fitzgerald(First edition 1859)

The reason I decided to write on the Rubaiyat is because I feel the verses stir my heart and soul.

In my twenties, when talking existentialism was fashionable, I tried to link Khayyam’s poetry to the post world war philosophy. I found strains of nihilism in it…anything that I was looking for. Now, at fifty, I find wisdom and truth in it and catch glimpses of a borderless world, where humanitarian concerns have become a major issue.

Perhaps if we all believed in the things he says, there would be no wars, no peace keeping forces and no soldiers. It is truly ironic that we have to live in a world where they need to use cannon fodder, soldiers, weapons and destruction to maintain peace. Where has old Khayyam’s world disppeared? In one of his best known verses, he says

Here with a Loaf of Bread beneath the Bough,

A Flask of Wine, a Book of Verse—and Thou

Beside me singing in the Wilderness—

And Wilderness is Paradise enow.

Is this not what we all are looking for? I find these verses truly inspirational, passionate and profound.

Come, fill the Cup, and in the Fire of Spring,

The Winter Garment of Repentance fling

The Bird of Time has but a little way

To fly — and Lo! the Bird is on it’s Wing.

Khayyam has been viewed as a hedonist, a sufi, an atheist, a devout muslim. He was a mathematician, astronomer, philosopher and poet. His quatrains are like a fresh breath of life. His verses are profound and cover almost every aspect of existence. They span love, religion, philosophy, culture, wine and food…from the mundane to the divine.

The Moving Finger writes; and, having writ,

Moves on: nor all thy Piety nor Wit

 Shall  lure it back to cancel half a Line

Nor all thy Tears wash out a Word of it.

The fatalistic twist we see in  Khayyam’s poetry is said to have been the handiwork of Edward Fitzgerald, the translator whose translation appeals to me the most. So, what has come down to us is not just the poet’s philosophy but also the translator’s own interpretation, a truly multi-cultural mix. Fitzgerald himself referred to this great creation as “transmogrification“. He wrote: “My translation will interest you from its form, and also in many respects in its detail: very un-literal as it is. Many quatrains are mashed together: and something lost, I doubt, of Omar’s simplicity, which is so much a virtue in him” (letter to E. B. Cowell, 9/3/58).

I find the mish-mash put forth by Edward Fitzgerald truly rhythmic and it brings out the flavour of mysticism and lyricism in the verses. There have been other translations but I stand by Edward Fitzgerald’s first edition as the best one.

Omar Khayyam is regarded as a great man. In 1970, they named a lunar crater after him. In 1980, a minor planet was named 3095Omarkhayyam. In 2009, Iran donated a scholar pavilion to the United Nations office in Vienna,featuring four great scholars from their culture. One of them is Omar Khayyam.

To me, these verses of Khayyam translated by Fitzgerald transcend all borders of time, nationality, religion and culture.

Edit

Wilderness

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The quest

Hurricanes hurl through her head,
Whirling, swirling words in red,
Yellow, orange, violet and azure, white,
Colours vibrant with the throb of light.
Twirling, she dances to the rhythm of life,
Rises in the eddies of words,
Losing herself in sighs.
She longs for those lines,
Lines that will light up all life,
The ultimate words
That will lift her
To an eternity beyond time.
Ascending, she will find
The glorious sky turned gold
With her words so bold
And, painted in the colours of dawn,
She will become a part of the eternal song.

Beginning…

Beyond Chaos

Whenever I look at the vast expanse of the sky,
I know, I really need to fly,
To stretch out my wide wings in the breeze
And swish with the lush green trees.
I soar
Undisciplined, wild, crazy,
Forever willing to try
But knowing no bonds
To limit the mind,
Forever willing to pry
Beyond the frontiers
Of time.
Untied, untamed, wild…
This is how I like to fly.
An unbeaten stallion,
Pure, white
High beyond the rainbow,
Floats with translucent wings,
Unrestrained by matter or space,
Or the mad urge to race.
It gallops and flies,
Unfettered by ties
That hold us back.
It soars the wordless infinity
Where light
Becomes night
And everything unites
To a pulsating rhythm
Of an energy
Beyond time.
I ride on the stallion.
I gallop
Till I merge,
Become part
Of the throb,
Annihilated by the pulsating rhythm.
I no longer exist
Except in
Ecstasy.

Fragments…

Why is it?

Why is it my heart skips a beat
Everytime I, a rhythm meet?
Why is it I feel a rush of adrenalin
Whenever a word in my head sings?
Why is it when sounds create
I fall into an ecstatic state?
Why is it when words rush out
I feel I could dance and shout?
Why is it when I don’t write
I feel the sun has no light?
Darkness descends and it is night.
Yet, with a whiff of a word
I feel like a soaring bird.
Concealed by cool moon rays,
The sun for me forever stays.
The black river throbs with life
In the starry hours of midnight.
A mysterious energy flows pulsating a rhyme.
A rhythm, a sound, a word breaks
The quiet barriers of the waves.
I am no longer alone
But am lost in a world of my own,
Where I sense eternal spring
And images that forever take wing….

Wafting…

Through the mists of time,
They float to me,
Ideas that are fragmentary.
They lodge themselves in the sea of thoughts
Till drifting slowly they find their slots,
And then they burst out of me
Sprinkling confetti
Colourful, bright,
Creating aurora lights,
Sparkling, bubbling,
Gushing, singing
In a journey towards a new infinity….