Cross-Media Creativity


An open book.

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by Susan McCaslin

In Chapter 5 of Arousing the Spirit, “Countering War with Wonder,” I wrote about my favourite mystical poet of all time, William Blake. Blake and I have had a long and fruitful association, and he always keeps me on my toes.

Currently I’ve been thinking about how Blake was what you might call a “cultural creative” or “integral creative.” By those terms I mean that his various forms of creative expression actually pushed the culture ahead on the evolutionary path.

Of course, it took the culture a long time to catch up with him enough to hear what he was saying (and has it really done so yet?). And what he was (is) saying is that it’s the creative capacity in humans, if anything, that will save us from self-destruction. That still seems a remarkable insight.

Another feature of the Blakean mind is that it is characterized by what I would call cross-media creativity. Blake was good at a wide range of creative forms – poetry, painting, book design, and music. His mystical consciousness seemed to hold these various forms of aesthetic expression within an ever-expanding cosmological framework.

Given half a chance, we all start out as integral creatives. Kids like me growing up in the 50’s were acrobats in trees, sculptors in mud, and fashionistas with dolls. We waxed and pressed leaves, organized garage plays, and danced with the fireflies. The great thing about the exploratory years is that almost everyone can recall at least one time of complete absorption in creative play where the mind stood amazed within the creative process.

Now, as I reconsider Blake’s creativity, I ask: Why is creativity such an essential feature of the mystical life? For me, it lies at its very core.

I would say that creativity opens us to a doubling of life’s mystery, a double astonishment. Sometimes in creativity we enter silence, the wilderness preceding words and naming. This first mystery of silence is the mystery of “the within,” the interior ground from which all things emerge. It is beyond even the duality of being and non-being.

A quantum physicist might associate it with dark matter. The truth is, we can’t say very much about it – all our words and concepts prove useless. When going into this interior, the “I” waits in speechlessness.

The second mystery is the mystery of “the without” – the natural or manifest world, what has been called the creation. This is the body of the world, the manifesting sacred in all its terror, beauty, and glory. Again on experiencing it, often first in nature, we are awed, silenced. Getting in touch with the mystery of creative manifestation involves a deeper knowing than that of the rational mind, a deeper seeing than that of the physical eye.

But the mystical consciousness isn’t simply the within or interiority as opposed to the without or exteriority. It is what lies at the pivot between the two, the door hinge of inner and outer. To say it is beyond being and non-being is to say it is a non-dual condition.

It is a place of such deep symbiosis and interconnectivity that war, competition, jealousy, greed, and hatred have no place. So for Blake the mystical consciousness is the peace-making consciousness – an active peace poured out from the pivot of the world. When the mystic mind, even for a nanosecond, enters meta-time, creative forms of great beauty, surprise, originality, and elegance arise.

And if a person is called to be part of that arising, a co-creator and participant, then there is only praise, adoration, uncontainable joy. How much we desire this state of oneness, how close it is, and yet seemingly how inaccessible!

Mystics like Blake determine to live in it as much as possible. Yet they know they can’t sustain it and that they aren’t particularly special. They know this place of what the Greeks called energia is the birthright of every sentient being. Mystics stumble and lapse, but they are drawn to this open doorway which is the pivot of the worlds. They open doors for others because they are themselves open doors, open gates.

I believe we are all called to be cross-media mystical creatives the world. Whether we express ourselves through traditional art forms or find new ways of relating to people, or just being in our daily lives, such creativity moves out of a desire to blend beauty, goodness, and truth in ever-new configurations of love.

Susan McCaslin is a prize-winning poet and author of eleven volumes of poetry. Susan is Faculty Emeritus of Douglas College where she taught English and Creative Writing for twenty-three years. Her most recent volume of poetry, Demeter Goes Skydiving (University of Alberta Press, 2011), has recently been named a finalist for the BC Book Prize (Dorothy Livesay Award). She lives in Victoria, British Columbia. Visit her website at www.susanmccaslin.ca.

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Categories: Art and Music, Creativity, Susan McCaslin

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8 Comments on “Cross-Media Creativity”

  1. May 7, 2012 at 3:46 pm #

    This is an extremely insightful piece!

  2. Eileen Mackenzie
    May 8, 2012 at 4:57 pm #

    I especially liked your last paragraph. It gives hope to all human beings. We don’t have to be special and talented to experience the joy of creativity.

  3. May 8, 2012 at 8:26 pm #

    This is my favourite piece thus far, although they’ve all been great! I, too, think that mystics and/or those who are interested in spirit find both inner and outer necessary. I really enjoyed your articulation of this idea through the metaphor of the hinged door.

  4. May 9, 2012 at 1:10 am #

    I appreciate your sentence on your own childhood. “Kids like me growing up in the 50’s were acrobats in trees, sculptors in mud, and fashionistas with dolls.” We’re all cross-media artists as children and then we narrow and narrow. Alas.

  5. Margaret
    May 9, 2012 at 5:58 pm #

    I agree with what Eileen says about your last paragraph — that we are all called to be cross-media mystical creatives gives hope to all human beings. Your piece also makes me think about how we can use social media more creatively.

  6. May 11, 2012 at 6:06 pm #

    Yes, yes, yes. Beautiful, Susan.
    I’ve been pondering receptivity and clarity. How to invoke that place of Being from which to write… and live. Just as long as ego is offered to Being, no matter what we do is living in Being, in Presence. Then the world is in deep sympathy. Not only dreams and books we pick up apparently at random comply with our questions. Everything mirrors, responds in the doctrine of signatures that defines and deepens the experience the poet is attempting to articulate.

  7. banananut04
    May 15, 2012 at 2:57 pm #

    I like to think of myself as a cross-creative person. I’m loving your blog posts, bravo!

  8. May 21, 2012 at 6:12 am #

    Thanks for posting, you lovely, creative people!

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