At lunch with a writer friend yesterday. The day was already clouded with news coming through about the air crash. That and the results of the Amanda Knox retrial, events which for a day at least pushed aside the horror stories from the Middle East. And all this in a week where I'd watched the first episode of Louis Theroux's series 'By reason of Insanity (BBC 2)
I told my friend about when I used to teach art at a Maximum Security Prison and how feelings from that time, questions if you will, about normality and what it is, and isn't, were coming to the surface on watching the programme. In my class were murderers and violent criminals but apart from a few odd events, these guys were like lambs with me. And I soon came to realise how fundamental these classes were to their grip on sanity; their holding on to some vestige of normality in a very abnormal environment
And I read in a Guardian article yesterday morning that a huge percentage of professional people suffer acutely from stress and depression, but that with pills and psychological support, how they manage to get by on a working day.
We talked about his writing and my painting and how lucky we were to have this poetic world to sink into, one which in turn colours our lives and makes them richer. And he asked 'What about the rest of humanity?' Big Question.
I replied that this is the reason why I teach, to get the word out there. And then the conversation drifted in another direction but it has hung in my mind ever since, because there is a better, fuller, answer.
It is that I believe that we are all creative beings but that the precious gift of creativity has been taken from us (most of us) during childhood and that we yearn for it for the rest of our lives. It is like a hole in our soul. And the wound from this deprivation is harsh and deep. And that now we have to remember; yes simply remember, what it was to be a child, to play and float in a world of fantasy and creativity without judgement or restraint.
Yes I know I'm banging an old drum here but maybe not loud enough. Because we live in perilous times and we are suffering the pitfalls of passivity, psychologists and pills. We are looking for easy fixes and they abound. But these fixes are ephemeral and do nothing to satisfy our (sometimes unconcious) yearning to be creative.
Now, I am not going to pretend that creativity is the only answer to the world's problems but I am truly wary of quick fix tricks and this obsession with change that currently abounds. That if you keep on searching, that you'll eventually hit on the right one, the right trick.
You see, my experience tells me that all the finer aspects of humanity, courage, compassion, adventure, love for our fellow man, and of course creativity, that all these values are still within us. They have not disappeared. Suppressed in childhood yes, and ignored, of course, in the adult world of stress and striving. But that these values are still there waiting for us to return to them whatever age we are and in whatever sort of life we lead. We just need to wake up, to return once more to our innate God-given creativity
Michael runs Retreats in Creativity in Assisi, Italy, throughout the summer
Please click HERE for details
Please click HERE for details