Friday, May 14, 2010

Thinking about creativity

I am reflecting on the creative process today, my own as well as others. We each have a creative process - all of us - although we might not recognize it as creativity or a process. The older I get, the more my creative process has been unleashed in my life. I don't know why, but it seems that the more I write and teach (all aspects of the creative process), the more need I have to engage in art itself (another form of the creative process). I find that my intellectual creativity is nurtured by my right-brain creativity, and my right-brain creativity by my intellect. Why is this? Do any of you know the psychology or neurology here?

Yesterday I came across this u-tube video of Elizabeth Gilbert talking about her own creative process. She says that she has found it helpful to think about the process as overseen by an attendant spirit, a daemon or genius, as the ancient people taught. She goes on to describe an encounter she had with the poet Ruth Stone who described her own process as "poem catching". When she was young and working in the fields, she said that the poem would come to her rumbling across the earth, shaking it. As the poem approached, she would race to her house and grab a paper and pencil to catch the poem before it stormed through her and past her. The poem would be intact.

This might seem odd to some people, and we might dismiss this as Stone's metaphor. But I'm not so sure because last year I had a very similar experience. As I was walking from my home to my office, I was overcome with a poem. Its echo was thunderous and it was all I could do to run all the way to my office and grab a pen and paper and write it down before it was gone. It came to me intact. This is what I wrote down:
the garden

out of the darkness
living eve
lush pomegranates
ripe figs
ready for tasting
heavy upon the branches

what is it that is secreted away, ruah?
sheltered, spiritus?
stolen, sophia?

sweet fruit in your hands
gnosis in the bite
juice on the chin

hide away eve
the nemesis of god is upon you
Have any of you ever experienced poem catching before or know of someone who has? I'm curious now that I realize my experience is not an isolated event. I'm not sure that I would say that it is the result of a muse, or a paranormal event as Gilbert suggests. But whatever happened was overwhelming and there was no option not to run and write it down. I find that once the creative process is really engaged on a regular basis, that it takes on a life of its own, almost pushing me to bring to life whatever it is I am working on, a book, an article, a painting, a textile piece, a poem.

Here is the u-tube video in case you are interested:

Friday, May 7, 2010

What is the Bible?

I begin my Introduction to New Testament Studies course by asking the class to give serious consideration to the question "What is the Bible?" and determine some type of class definition as a starting point. The consensus was that it is a book written that contains history and is the basis of faith for certain religions (Judaism, Christianity, Islam).

I just finished grading the final exams. One of the questions on the exam asked the students to reflect upon the original question and discuss their understandings of the bible in light of the knowledge that they gained in the course.

One student's response leapt out this year and I want to share it:

"In the beginning of the course, the bible seemed easy. I really thought I understood what it was and where it came from. In my opinion, it was a book with largely fictitious stories that formed the basis of faith for various religions, in particular Christianity. Now knowing the complex history of how the bible was created and all the nuances of how it is interpreted have changed my opinion. The bible is not a simple matter as I previously thought. Now I believe the bible to be a living and breathing text which is constantly being changed to reflect the values and beliefs of those who read it. The text has survived and found relevancy for thousands of years. What does a modern person have in common with an ancient Roman Christian? Really, absolutely nothing. But the bible was/is found relevant to both. The bible is transformed to suit the beliefs of its users...Particularly interesting was how the bible can be interpreted to encourage certain beliefs. Amazing how it is used to support suppression of women and even to support slavery."

Thursday, May 6, 2010

New book on Slavonic Pseudepigrapha

Andrei Orlov has edited a brilliant collection of essays on the Slavonic Pseudepigrapha from articles he had published previously in journals that are not readily accessible to most readers.

He examines theophanic patterns found in 2 Enoch, the Apocalypse of Abraham, and the Ladder of Jacob. He investigates divine body KAVOD traditions (measure; corporeality; bodily ascent; pillar of the world; eschatology; divine face; heavenly counterpart; resurrection) and divine name SHEM traditions (aural mysticism; liturgy; angelology; iconoclasm; fallen angels).

Andrei Orlov, Divine Manifestations in the Slavonic Pseudepigrapha, Orientalia Judaica Christiana 2 (Piscataway: Gorgias, 2009).

Orlov has posted his introduction HERE.