Category Archives: Creativity Project

Cooperating with Creativity: A Reflection

Blue Dancers by Edgar Degas, 1899

“Creativity is the relationship between the human being and the mysteries of inspiration” Elizabeth Gilbert, Big Magic, Creative Living Beyond Fear

There are times where creativity seems like a divine gift, something external and strange and magical that comes from some unknown space in the cosmos. Normally these are times where I let creativity take the lead, where I allow curiosity around a phrase or an idea to lead the way. During these times the providential provision of resources and words can be delightful if a little scary. There are times where my words both reflect me and something that is not like me at all, even when there is truth in the strangeness. I enjoy cooperating with creativity whatever spirit it may be, letting it flow through me and guide me, surprise and startle. Sometimes I can almost stand back and watch it dance and spin and leap and all I can do is simply try to record the joy or lament of the dance. As one who is not a dancer, I am at best an uninformed commenter on the art and yet sometimes the comments themselves capture some of the beauty whether dark or savage or light or joyous or somber.

There are times where creativity seems like some strange reserve of energy within me, like the old Polynesian idea of mana or the Chinese concept of qi. Feeling like some vital energy that is a part of me and that expending it in a forced manner leaches strength from the very marrow of my being. When it feels like a time-constraints force me to be creative in an urgent matter it almost feels like I am doing violence to creativity and to myself at the same time. It is like this thing which can be separate from me is somehow conjoined, that we feed off the same energy. Not like some unwelcome parasite that simply leeches its victim for its own purposes but some type of symbiotic relationship where the creativity, genius, daemon, muse or whatever name you give it cannot do its work without your participation in the dance with it. When it is forced to dance a dance it no longer wants to dance or is not ready for, then I, as its partner, am the one whose head pounds, whose muscles burn and whose soul aches.

Creativity can be elusive but she can be a delight. Sometimes she stays away for days on end, or perhaps it is me who has been away on some other journey, too distracted by the alluring entertainment on some screen or some pressing task at work or home. Sometimes she comes when the time is not right and by the time I can give her my full attention she is off dancing somewhere out of site. I’m not sure what creativity is or how it works, I’m just trying to learn how to cooperate with it. To be attentive to its call, to listen to the music it chooses, to observe the dance, to do my part as a recorder of these mysteries of inspiration. I try to work diligently but not to force or bend it to my will, that seems to do damage to both of us. Perhaps it is something deep within me, perhaps it is something else, perhaps it is in some strange way both. I may never know, and perhaps to know would steal away the magic and delight, like knowing some illusionist’s trick. So, for now I’ll let this dance end as the music fades and leave this reflection for others to see. Perhaps serendipity may allow this to be that providential provision that another curious observer needs as their creativity calls its tune.

Means of Perception



In her insightful survey of Romantic philosophy’s concept of the imagination and the 20th Century critique of that concept, Mary Warnock arrives at the conclusion that, “Imagination is our means of interpreting the world, and it is also our means of forming images in the mind. The images themselves are not separate from our interpretations of the world; they are our way of thinking of the objects in the world.” (Warnock, 1976, p. 194) The journey with her throughout the study was full of realizations, but what I want to focus in on was a leap I made from her final conclusion to think more about these interpreted images that form in our memories and worldviews and ideas. At this point this is an intuitive jump that may be played out in more recent philosophy and science and it bears further investigation, but one of the processes of discovery is stating an idea and seeing if it remains true under further dialogue and observation.

Philosophers like Hume and Kant would point to the concept of imagination which allows us to realize that objects continue to exist and are indeed the same object when we encounter them at a later point, but this level of imagination is exhibited very early in life and by the time a child surpasses 12-18 months and has a sense of object permanence to use Jean Piaget’s language our imaginations have already become far more intricate than Hume and Kant would suggest. If imagination is involved in the ‘image making’ in our mind it is also responsible for the interpretation of these images, and these images are not like pictures, nor are they merely like ideas-perhaps a better word is they form interrelated constructs. When I encounter a person, for example, I don’t just take a mental picture of that person and store it in my memory, not even a three dimensional portrait, I take in much more information than that. I also am taking in the environment that I meet this person within, I am making value judgments about this individual, I am interpreting who they are within a web of relationships, I am interpreting their communication (not just spoken words, but also body language, tone and many other ways of interpreting the meaning of their communication) and I am placing them within a narrative or story. In even the simplest interaction there is far more data around me than my eyes and mind can possibly interpret so my mind has to know how to filter and pay attention to what is important. In a familiar environment we tend to pay less attention to the objects within that environment unless something changes, we filter out noise to be able to pay attention to a particular conversation and we decide what types of things from an interaction might be worth remembering. Yet with all this data we are not just passively acquiring information, but we are constantly interpreting and seeking meaning within the data. Even our most basic interpersonal interactions require a huge amount of creativity as we try to understand and interpret what another person is thinking and how they might interact with us next. For example, in the context of a job interview the person being interviewed is probably observing how the person conducting the interview is responding to the answer they are given since it will probably impact whether they are offered the job or not. At the same time this same person is attempting to make inferences about what it would be like to work with this person and make a value judgment if this is a job that they want. In interpersonal interactions this is what had been referred to as theory of mind (the realization that the other person has thoughts, feelings, intents and desires and that are distinct from one’s own thoughts, feelings, intents and desires, combined with the ability to interpret and predict those feelings).

Yet, while imagination is certainly involved in interpreting and giving meaning to the communications and the images or constructs within the appropriate environment, time, story, etc. it also must be involved in much more. For our imagination is able to take these communications and constructs which have been stored in our memory and continue to manipulate them. Sometimes this manipulation will be within a normal frame of reality and may be as simple as replaying an interaction either for further interpretation (did they really think this) or for continued learning (if this happens again I would do/say this) and sometimes we place or manipulate objects and transform them into new things in a different reality.

If we want to imagine an unreal creature or an unreal world we, by necessity, start with the world we know. For example if we were to imagine an imaginary creature like a dragon, we would in this case have many other people’s images of dragons in many media, but if we were to create a new dragon we would probably begin with creatures we are familiar with, like a lizard or a bird and continue to modify it in a way that fit that new reality. Or if you were to design a life-form for an imagined world, or the landscape for an imagined world you would start from the world you know and modify it based on some creative leaps. We can also imagine interactions with people that have never happened but are intelligent guesses  based upon previous interactions.

I’ve quickly moved into the realm of speculation, but I wanted to get some of these thoughts down so that as I continue to encounter some more recent work on imagination and experience I can test some of these ideas.


purple rose 01 by

The Glorious Freedom of Creative Mistakes


We are limited beings who do attempt to make sense of our world and we have the gifts of perception and communication which help us to do that. Our perception allows us to see and experience the world and communication allows us to learn from the experiences and intuitions of others and our minds are not machines. We cannot, like Descartes wanted to do many years ago, separate our mind from our bodies and senses-they are real, the mind and body are integrated and even if a sense doesn’t work, for example in the case of a person who is unable to see or hear, we find other ways of perceiving and communicating about the world around us. We make a lot of assumptions and inferences about the world around us and we try to set up closed systems to make everything fit, but combined with this comfort that comes from certainty is the joy that comes with discovery. As we encounter the world and interact with others there will be times where we discover new connections and have to expand our system to make sense of the new ideas or images we encounter. Sometimes these new paradigms come from outside us, when we through communication or observation come into contact with another person’s or group’s way of explaining something. So for example a person who encounters Newton’s physics in high school which would explain gravity in terms of the attraction between two objects may later in their life encounter relativity theory where gravity is explained very differently and in a way that makes more sense given what we know about the universe and perhaps sometime later would encounter a completely new explanation. Yet, we don’t magically jump from one explanation to another on our own, the road to discovery is paved with numerous failed attempts and creative mistakes.

Jacob Bronowski uses the example of a chess player when he says:

“Why does one chess player play better than another?”The answer is not that the one who plays better makes fewer mistakes, because in a fundamental way the one who plays better makes more mistakes, by which I mean more imaginative mistakes. He sees more ridiculous alternatives. (Bronowski, 1978, p. 110f)

Yet, as a person who knows the rules of chess but has never studied the strategy of chess, I would not play a challenging game to a chess master because I don’t have enough information to make new imaginative mistakes. There is something to understanding the systems that are already existent and then being able to manipulate them, experiment with them and see where there may be new places to discover. In the process of manipulation and experimentation we come up with possible explanations or visualizations which most of the time are not true. This is not just in the realm of science, but also in the realm of art where it is true that there are more bad works of art than good ones. It takes a lot of attempts to become good at any art, and in the midst of the attempts we learn. Every great imaginative construct, whether it be in science or art, begins as an exploration of past errors. One of our greatest freedoms is the ability to learn from our mistakes rather than being defined by them.

purple rose 01 by

The Gift of Self Reference and Necessary Imaginative Constructs


As I mentioned at the beginning of the post Metaphors of Reality we try to make sense of ourselves, the world and (at least for those who think in spiritual or religious terms) God. But one of the struggles we have is that we never have a ‘God’s eye’ view of reality and that our view is always provisional. Unlike in the gospel stories which sometimes have an all seeing narrator (who for example sees what is going on in the temptation of Jesus) we are limited to the things we have experienced through our senses, the creative leaps we have made through our imagination and the constructs we have learned from our conversations with others. We take all these pieces of reality as we perceive them and try to decode our world and experiences “by a highly imaginative, creative piece of guesswork. But we finish with something that is only a gigantic metaphor for that part of the universe which we are decoding.” (Bronowski 1978, 70) We attempt to make sense of things and we construct systems that seem to make sense of the world with some things we are fairly certain of, others less so, and some just our best guess at the time. Sometimes there are things we believe that we cannot prove, that doesn’t mean they are not true-just that they cannot be proved. That is the reality of living in which our perception and knowledge are incomplete and bound by constraints and self reference.

One of the vanities of the modern (note I am talking modern as a category, not necessarily in terms of recent) philosophy that emerged in the 18th century in the wake of the Enlightenment was that it believed that it could penetrate reality and get to absolute truth. That for example if you could peel away the encrusted layers of tradition you could actually get back to the real history of what happened-and while there were many useful insights gained from this dedicated effort to get back to the facts as well as the dialogues that came out of different interpretations of the same data, but we never are truly free of self reference. For a lot of people this is looked upon primarily as an issue to be apologized for, but I want to suggest this is one of the things that allow creativity to thrive. In contrast to a computer which understands its inputs in terms of its coding and programming that when it encounters a novel experience that doesn’t fit within the world of its programming either creates an error or the computer ignores the anomaly, humans are able to integrate experiences in creative ways into their worldview. We are not limited by one set of constructs which we make sense of the world; instead humans are constantly experiencing and growing in our interaction with others and the world around us.

We need the imaginative constructs, the language and systems and science we learn from others to make communication possible, so for example within linear mathematics we can feel confident that 1 + 1= 2, or that in speech the letter ‘c’ will make certain sounds, or that in the world of Newtonian physics every action will have an equal and opposite reaction. We need laws, theorems and systems to make sense of the world, but these laws, theorems and systems are not absolute because there are times when we will experience things that do not make sense within the constructs we may have accepted. As Bronowski alludes to when he states, “The fact that we are content, when running into this kind of difficult, to reanalyze the system, to seek a new consistent formulation, is terribly important.” (Bronowski 1978, 87)Without the ability to seek a better system that makes sense of ourselves and our world we would be limited in our understanding to the knowledge and systems that were handed on to us. The experience is always in reference to the self, it is using our senses and our intellect to interpret that experience within the memory of our previous experiences and knowledge, and yet because of this self reference we are able to challenge external references and experiences. We seek consistency, we want things to make sense, but the experience that does not make sense for many is actually an exciting process of discovery. Let’s say, for example, that we had received a way of evaluating others passed down from our parents that, “blondes have more fun.” So long as our experience of people having blonde hair being fun people to be around holds up we might assume this random piece of a world to be true. Yet, once we encounter a person who has blonde hair who is not fun to be around we have several options of how we might proceed: we might challenge the assumption (are blondes really more fun?), we might wonder if this person is an exception to the rule (and the ability for there to be exceptions is also an imaginative leap), we might wonder if blonde is really their natural color (providing we understand that people can change their hair color) but the reality is that we will attempt to make sense of a disparity we have encountered. This is the way for example that prejudices may change when a person has experiences that challenge that prejudice, or new scientific discoveries are made when data doesn’t fit the previously assumed construct, or a new challenge presents itself based on technologies not previously available. Our ability to take in new challenges and experiences and in light of our knowledge and memory to make sense of them in a new way, even if it is only a creative piece of guesswork, and then see if this piece of guesswork seems to hold true is a part of the experimentation that opens new horizons in the imagination.

purple rose 01 by


Metaphors of Reality

Newton by William Blake (1795)

Newton by William Blake (1795)

One of the sets of vows that is commonly used when I do weddings includes the words “to better understand ourselves, the world and God.” One of the things we do as humans with our language to better understand ourselves, the world and God is we attempt to describe objects and actions and their interactions. All of these words, symbols and ideas are constructed within a system to give meaning and sense to them, for example in the world of mathematics 1 + 1 = 2, if the rules of the system were different 1 +1 could equal a different number, but the rules that the system works within allow 1 + 1= 2 to be the correct answer while 1 + 1= 3 would not make sense within the system. The systems we understand the world within are attempts to describe the reality we observe and know, and yet they are always metaphors or propositions of reality. As Jacob Bronowski states:

I believe that all the kind of scientific descriptions that we can make about one another are perfectly real. And yet, I believe that any theory that we as human beings make at any point in time is full of provisional decodings which to some extent are as fictitious as the notion of force in Newton. (Bronowski, 1978, p. 58)

As Bronowski alludes to, Newton’s description of force, particularly the force of gravity where “the gravitational attraction is proportional to the mass of the two bodies divided by the square of the distance between some point in each mass.” Or in the symbolic language of science:

G=  k ( m m’) / r2

Which as a description of reality worked well in a system of Newtonian based physics, but when Albert Einstein published his first paper on relativity in 1905 it demonstrated the flaw in the concept and proposed a new way of describing the reality,  and yet even Einstein’s theory is no longer held to be an ultimate description of reality- yet both the work of Newton and Einstein and countless other scientists (just to stay within the scientific realm of creativity) work well for describing reality as it is encountered and it is only when we find exceptions to the rule where we begin to wonder what might cause these anomalies, is the way we have constructed reality inaccurate in some manner and we begin to wonder if perhaps there is some new way to understand the world our senses observe and to describe it so that others can encounter the world in a new way.

Science is not the only discipline that works this way, think for example in the realm of religion. At various point in history different metaphors have served as a dominant metaphor for understanding God. For example, at the beginning of the enlightenment where the clocks and watches were one of the most complicated pieces of technology available that most people would encounter in their world there was the common image of God as the clockmaker who constructed the world and then allowed it to run. It is not coincidental that this was a time in which deism was the primary philosophical tool for talking about God and the deist view of God was a God that was for the most part uninvolved in the day to day undertakings of the world. This is not the dominant picture of God today and there are a number of problems with this image, but it was how many religious people of that time tried to make sense of God in a way they could imagine.

Here I think is where the mystical tradition of talking about God can help us out: on the one hand there is the cataphatic tradition which in a positive manner says that our language can point to God while, on the other hand, there is the apophatic tradition which states that our language is never adequate to describe God. Moving back to our world and ourselves there is a sense in which our language describes reality, for example I can say that I have hazel eyes or that I am around 6’2” tall but ultimately my descriptions, even of myself, will never be completely adequate to convey all of who I am. Our understanding of the world around us is also provisional or metaphorical, that doesn’t mean it is incorrect-but it may not be complete. I think the French language has a helpful construct here with its two words that we can translate into the English ‘to know.’ The French word savior refers to knowing a fact, knowing how to do something or to know something by heart. The French word connaître refers to knowing a person or being familiar with a person or thing. There is a sense where we can know about and describe individual things but people, for example, are not reducible to a set of facts. We can describe others, ourselves, the world and even God, but that sense of knowing is always based upon our relation to those things and is in its own way contingent on the systems we understand them within. Each of these systems are really theories about the nature of the world and there may be times where we find our own metaphors of reality are inadequate and need to be reexamined as we attempt to make sense of our relationship to the reality we encounter.

purple rose 01 by

Creativity for Fun

Jay Silver’s fun little video is really about the joy of discovery and interacting in new and playful ways with the world around us. The creativity he shows in the video is from manipulating and combining things that normally don’t go together and just experimenting (which is often how many discoveries come). Something as simple as the Makey-Makey circuit allowed for others to take this basic circuit and use it in numerous ways. Sometimes the discoveries and uses were unexpected, like the dad who decided to use the circuit to help create a controller for his son with cerebral palsy-a very useful invention. Many were just for fun and the delight of trying to create music, sound and interactions in new and creative ways.

Play is an under recognized form of learning, but it is something that all mammals do to learn, experiment and interact with their world. There is a sense of joy with playfully interacting with the world around us and exploring and discovering. Sometimes in the midst of the journey we encounter a problem that we have never had to answer before and we have to rethink a solution based upon the tools that are available. Necessity often can become the mother of invention, but so can playfulness. Not to take away from the work, research and knowledge that goes into the process of creation, or the frustration of failures (which all to often deter people) but as when boundaries are pushed there is often a sense of wonder at the discoveries that are eventually made.

I’m going to bring in some of these discussions on creativity as I go along. Take your own lessons and wonder from them, and hopefully you can also have something playful sparked in your own life.

purple rose 01 by

In The Beginning Was The Sentence

Creation by Selfish Eden (

Creation by Selfish Eden (

Human beings have an incredible sense of perseverance when you think about it. We will take complex tasks, think them through, experiment, learn and then try to be prepared for the next time we use things. Now, on the one hand, this can lead to some unhealthy behaviors of hoarding or becoming pack rats but, at the same time, we don’t discard a tool that has become useful like animals will do. A chimpanzee may realize that it works well, for example, to use a stick to poke into an ant mound but they don’t store sticks for this use, when the chimpanzee comes upon the need he finds a stick and the same way with other tool using animals. Humans are unique in their ability to predict a future need based upon a past need and within language this also is a crucial development. (Bronowski, 1978, p. 32f.)

Now it is possible that there have been breakthroughs in animal communication that I am unaware of, but the way Bronowski illustrates this breakthrough is the concept that animals communicate not in words but sentences or ideas. For example a chipmunk may has a different signal based on danger from a snake, danger from the air, or danger from a large ground animal, but you can’t deconstruct and recombine these signals into components of danger and the type of animal-they are one unit. They paint in a way a limited verbal picture of their environment and the immediate need they need to respond to. Yet human language is different, and the way our language is structured relying on words and not sentences as the building block of communication allows for the sharing of knowledge and imagination in ways not possible otherwise. For example “Jack loves Jill” and “Jill loves Jack” even though they share the same components do not mean the same thing. Language becomes an incredibly powerful tool for conveying and sharing images, thoughts and even worldviews, a picture may be worth a thousand words but only if it is done well and the person viewing the picture can understand what it is. It is not a coincidence that early languages began with characters that represented pictorially the ideas they were trying to express, but as ideas became more and more complex and the communication of thoughts and ideas contained more and more words language evolved to use letters to create words reflecting the sound of the word. For a word either read or heard to be transformed into a visual image is an act of imagination and it may evoke different images for different readers/hearers. For example if I say “bird” someone may think of a sparrow or an eagle or an ostrich, or perhaps even an obscene gesture, words on their own begin to paint the picture and then when combined within a sentence with actions and descriptions we refine the picture.

Imagination and creativity may help with survival and with creating new tools and ideas that help an individual, but if they are going to make any lasting impression they need to be able to be communicated. The evolution of language, first spoken and later written, has made it possible to pass on and build upon the ideas of others. But there is always a process of taking the information we receive in terms of letters and sounds and reconstituting them in our mind in terms of images (and these images are often moving images-videos if you will) as we translate representations into a mental vision.

purple rose 01 by

The Image And The Imagination

New Era by Aeon Lux on

New Era by Aeon Lux on

Humanity practices both science and art, two incredibly unique and imaginative processes where we attempt to make sense of the world and our relationship to it. Both science and art rely on imagination and vision. Jacob Bronowski highlighted to me something in our language that is very illuminating about imagination when he says, “I want you to think of the following words: visual, vision, and visionary; and image, imagery and imagination….Almost all the words we use about experiences of the kind that go into visions or images are words connected with the sense of sight.” (Bronowski, 1978, p. 10) That somehow there is something to the way we visually interact with our world is an important part of imagination, since the word image is the root of the word. It is a word that comes from crafting and shaping and playing with images in our own mind. The way we interact with our world is, of course, mediated by our senses: vision, sound, touch, taste and smell and certainly for most of our interactions we rely heavily on vision and sound. Bronowski argues that there are essentially two types of art: those dominated by sight (painting and sculpture for example) and those dominated by sound (music for example) and I would argue that there are some that are reliant on the interaction of both senses (drama, movies, etc.). Science on the other hand is dominated by the visual sense, so we can speak of observations, which refers back to the art of seeing. So perhaps one of the most critical things to imagination is the ability to see, or to interpret the senses in a way that allows the person to make sense of their world and to see alternatives and interpret interactions with it.

The visual process itself is a process of decoding, since our eyes on their own apparently don’t just take a picture and project it into the brain like an old style camera projecting onto film, but rather if Bronowski is correct (and I’m now curious since this is an older work) it would be more like the process that goes on in a digital camera where individual rods and cones in our eyes develop a level of stimulation to the light it receives and sends all the signals back to our brain which then interprets all these signals and assembles the picture in a way that is far more accurate than the individual cellular receptors in the eyes are capable of making. The very process of seeing relies upon the visual part of the brain making inferences about the world it is seeing to make up for the shortcomings in the visual organs, and that compared to most other animals we have a phenomenal portion of our brain dedicated to the process of interpreting visual input.

Combined with this process of interpreting the visual input we receive from our eyes, our brains also allow us to imagine differently-to see alternatives and to attempt to predict based what we currently see and what we have seen before. Part of what makes us such curious animals is our ability to take the images we have and to imagine possible futures, alternatives if you will. In one sense the idea of free will goes back to the idea of “visualizing alternatives and making a choice between them.” (Bronowski, 1978, p. 18) There is a lot to unpack with this revelation that imagination is a function of the process of seeing and interpreting our world and imagining other possible worlds, and that will come but perhaps part of learning to imagine is learning to pay close attention to sight (as well as sound and the other senses) and attend to the images and the possibilities.

purple rose 01 by

Creativity, Spirituality and Shame


As I embark on the thought experiment I call the creativity project which will not be in any way systematic, but a set of explorations from various perspectives around topics of creativity, spirituality, and imagination I am going to start in what many will initially think is an unusual place: shame. Brené Brown’s work on shame has been one of the most revealing perspectives in what limits or destroys our capacity for creativity. Shame as Brené defines it is:

Shame is the intensely painful feeling or experience of believing that we are flawed and therefore unworthy of acceptance or belonging. (Brown, 2007, p. 4)(emphasis author’s)

Shame is that emotion that tells us that we are unworthy, unloved or unloveable, it can allow an action or another’s perspective to define who we are in our own eyes. It shouldn’t be surprising that this incredibly powerful fear can dampen if not kill creativity for an individual or an organization and that it can also by extension powerfully effect spirituality.  In Brené Brown’s book I Thought It Was Just Me she makes this insightful comment which is well worth the two paragraphs it spans:

I did see important patterns and themes in terms of how women experienced their faith and spirituality. For example, the women who talked about feeling shame used the words church and religion more. The women who talked about resilience used the terms faith, spirituality and beliefs more. At first I wondered if there was a connection between “organized religion” and shame. I didn’t find one. At least half of the women who used the terms faith, spirituality, and beliefs attended church and were members of an organized religion.

What did become clear to me is this: It is the relationship that women have with God, their higher power or their spiritual world that often serves as the source of resilience. The essence of resilience, in a spiritual sense, is about relationship, spirit and faith. For many women, spiritual connection is essential to shame reliance. In fact, over half of the women, who, as children, experienced deep shame around religion developed shame resilience by forging new spiritual paths. They may have changed churches or their beliefs, but spirituality and faith remain an important part of their lives. Another pattern that emerged is the belief that faith is about nurturing our best selves and shame moves us away from that purpose. The sources of shame seem much more connected to earthly, man-made and interpreted rules and regulations and social-community expectations around religion (Do you go to church regularly? Are you loyal to your family religion? Are you raising your kids a certain way? Are you breaking rules that might shame the family or the community? Do you know your place as a woman?). (Brown, 2007, p. 259f)

Brené’s later two works, The Gift of Imperfection (Brown, 2010) and Daring Greatly (Brown, 2012) (which I blogged about in the posts Daring Greatly, Cultures of Scarcity, and Shame on You) she moves to the concept of vulnerability as the characteristic that people who feel loveable (and are able to move beyond their shame) share. This vulnerability allows people to be courageous, compassionate and connected with others. In contrast fear, disengagement and yearning for more courage may come out of an environment’s or an individual’s shame. For example when shame is a management style “engagement dies. When failure is not an option we can forget about learning, creativity and innovation.” (Brown, 2012, p. 14)

As we think about the type of community’s that will nurture creativity and spirituality for the coming generations we need to pay close attention to the ways shame, fear, manipulation and coercion are used. Do we have communities where people are valued for their conformity or for their individuality? Do we have communities where people feel they need to fit in (shame is the fear of being disconnected)? Can we be a place where not only failure but forgiveness is an option? Do churches begin to reflect the culture of scarcity we experience in the world around us or can we dare greatly and trust greatly in the abundance that is found in our own faith?

The reality is that many if not all communities and individuals have a long way to go in nurturing a climate of acceptance, connection, resilience and support, faith and spirituality. It is a journey that we must undertake if we are really going to be about helping people in their relationship with God and with one another. The likelihood is that on the journey there will be many failures, many times where we will need to be forgiven for returning to shame for motivation, and hopefully on the way we may all grow both more courageous and more vulnerable and more resilient to the shame which dampens our creativity and spirituality.

I’ve included another of Brené Brown’s talks and I love the comment she makes that “Faith-vulnerability=extremism, that faith is the vulnerability that flows between the shores of certainty…spirituality is inherently vulnerable.”

purple rose 01 by