The Spiritual Aspect of Creativity
The first creative act was the beginning of the Universe. The concept of Creatio Ex Nihilo or “creation from nothing” is something that is beyond human capabilities and explanations are limited to a faith in the deities of worship.
The words “In the beginning…” are really about the creation of matter, energy, space and time. Scientist describe creation with the Big Bang theory, quantum physics and evolution. Adherents to religious practice describe creation as a divine act. While scientist and theologians often debate the existence of God, artists and philosophers often operate in the space between these polemics and find ways to interconnect multiple “truths” of religion, science, and existentialism. Beauty offers a moment of transcendence.
The photographer Peter Emerson understood the need for integration of multiple viewpoints. In his book Naturalistic Photography published in 1899 he wrote:
“The opticians were right from the mathematical standpoint, and I was right from the physiological and psychological standpoints, and so it was evident there were two truths to nature – the perspective of mathematical truth and the psychological or visual truth”
“To sum up then, art is the selection, arrangement, and recording of certain facts, with the aim of giving aesthetic pleasure; and it differs from science fundamental, in that as few facts as are compatible with complete expression are chosen, and these are arranged so as to appeal to the emotional side of man’s nature, whereas the scientific facts appeal to his intellectual side.
Aesthetics is inherently tied to the acknowledgement of death. The true essence of photography is the knowledge that the subject in front of the lens will die, whether it is the passing of a moment as sun sets or the senescence of a living element of the plant and animal kingdom.
In the end, art reminds us that we have nothing but to toil within the limitations of the present moment, a short and unknown lifespan, and our own limited cognitive abilities.
Traditionally artist have acknowledge this through representations of memento mori in vanitas and trompe l’oeil still life paintings as well as portraits.
Building a Bridge
Creativity can be thought of as bridging the gap between mortality and immortality, or as a movement between an unstable position (mortality and indexicality) to a stable position (permanence). I like to The work of art will exist beyond the life of the artist who made it. It is a reminder of our mortality while also a reflection of our immortality and the interconnected nature of existence. To me the value of beauty is it’s ability to transcend space and time and to connect us to the ineffable.
I close today with a quote from John Milton.
Gratitude bestows reverence, allowing us to encounter everyday epiphanies, those transcendent moments of awe that change forever how we experience life and the world.