Creative Challenge As Initiation

Photo of a woman contemplating her painting, from Creative Crisis as Initiation | The Painting Experience Blog

Homesick for moderation,
Half the world’s artists shrink or fall away.
If any find solution, let him tell it.
Meanwhile I bend my heart toward lamentation
Where, as the times implore our true involvement,
The blades of every crisis point the way.

I would it were not so, but so it is.
Who ever made music of a mild day?

~ Mary Oliver, A Dream of Trees

Crisis, which has its roots in the ancient Greek, "to decide" or "to separate," is an inner state of readiness that precedes creative breakthrough. We must literally be at a critical juncture where a road must be chosen — where there is absolutely no chance to stall or turn back — before we have the urgency and energy to take that plunge that will determine the next direction in our lives.

In retrospect, we see how decisions made at crisis points often lead to new possibilities that wouldn't have existed otherwise. Yet we instinctively view the appearance of crisis with abhorrence and dread — we want anything except to enter into the state of immediacy that creative challenge demands. We will avoid at all costs the experience of stepping across the line without a guarantee, where we will be transformed in ways that we can't predict.

Crisis is a notice from our intuitive self that an initiation is due. We're presented with an opportunity to pass through the fire deeply altered by the experience, or to continue grasping the illusion that we can remain fixed and untouched. The fact is that when we truly meet crisis we don't remain fixed at all: The “I” that enters the experience is not the “I” that is spit out the other end. The experience and the experiencer are inseparably entwined in a mysterious and profound relationship that is interdependent and co-evolving. In embracing crisis the way opens up from within it like a flower blooming from the darkest soil.

Get the full article, Art & The Challenge of Change, by Stewart Cubley.

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