Thursday, 28 March 2013

Feeling small makes me creative

This blog is a riff on the theme of a recent blog by Seth Godin. You can find his post using the link at the end of this post. 

It was a very short comment but, as I read it, I had an instant flashback to a trip I made some years ago to Yosemite National Park in California.

Driving into the valley I saw a sheer rock face rising up almost 900 metres from the bed of a river.

It was a breath-taking sight, which exerted a kind of gravitational pull on me. I just started driving towards it until I was able to park close by and walk to the foot of it.

I have always found mountains inspiring but this one was in a league of its own. 

El Capitan dispenses with the niceties of foothills, slopes, hidden peaks etc. and just stands there; brutal, monolithic and perpendicular.

Looking up this monumental cliff with my head tilted as far back as it would go, I had a sense of being incredibly small, in a way that you can only know when you are standing next to something massive. And you know what – it felt really good.

For me, it was a deeply spiritual experience.

As in any genuine spiritual experience, I was forced off the throne at the centre of my world and made to view myself, and my world, from a completely different perspective.

And then the ideas began to flow. It was almost as though the shift in perspective had unstopped a channel in my brain and a profusion of ideas came cascading into my consciousness.

Original Photo: Mike Murphy
I think there is some kind of a principle in creation that the smaller I feel outside my head, the bigger the ideas that flow inside it.

I wonder if it is this sense of smallness that quietens down my ego and, in doing so, makes all the assumptions and paradigms that are associated with it a bit less dominant. And maybe, this allows the quiet thoughts and partial ideas that are floating around my right brain to surface and be recognised.

For this to work though, I think it is very important that the thing making me feel small does not have an ego of its own.

If it was a person, I know my fighting instincts would kick in and it would quickly descend into a contest of wills. But how can you argue with almost a Kilometre of rock!

It is not trying to make me feel small. It just does, because it is undeniably bigger, more impressive, more splendid than me. To paraphrase Mario Puzo's famous line: "It's nothing personal, just bigness."

To me, that is the golden key to inspired creativity – I need to feel small but not diminished.

Seth's post is here: 

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