Creativity and Chaos


Each morning I confront a blank page. I am finding this confrontation to be both frightening and invigorating. Each day, a kind of birth. After doing this now for a couple of weeks, what more could I possibly have to say? This is one of the voices in my head. Another, however reminds me that I am connected to the infinite God, whose very nature is to create. As conjured up in the hymn “Morning is Broken”, early morning is surely the best time for confronting the empty page.

In the beginning of the Bible we read that we were created in the image and likeness of God. This statement is made in the context of God doing a whole mess of creating: the heavens and the earth and everything else therein. One of the meanings of being made in God’s image is that we are partners with God in creation. Creativity is inherently “good”, as God says repeatedly in the very first chapter of the Book.

Imagination doesn’t get a fraction of the due it deserves. In the school system, children’s innate imagination tends to be given short shrift in deference to learning to do it right, whatever “it” is at the moment. I suppose there’s no getting around this. Too much imagination and not enough of “this is how it is done” means chaos, as in the chaos of the dark waters before God’s Spirit, hovering above like a mother hen brooding on her nest, gave birth to what is. And so the child learns to draw her cows standing solidly upon the ground — no more of this “cow jumping over the moon” business!

So we turn imagination over to the t.v. and film producers, and we sit back passively, reclining on our couches, allowing the “authorities” to decide what stories are told and how they are told. And we forget we even know how to tell a story — indeed, that our lives ARE stories — incredible stories that have the capacity to keep us on the edge of our seat, wondering what possibly could happen next.

Perhaps one of the meanings of Jesus’ statement, “Unless you turn and become like little children you cannot enter the Kingdom of God,” is that we must regain the boundless imagination we once had as little children. Perhaps faith and imagination go hand in hand, so that when Jesus says things like if you have faith the size of a mustard seed, you can move mountains, and that nothing is impossible to the person who believes, he is talking at least in part about the power of unbridled imagination. The enormous problems that beset the human race at present: war, starvation, global warming seem insolvable simply because we are collectively suffering from writer’s block, and don’t know how to envision a world that breaks out of the “we’ve always done it this way” mold.
A wonderful little known radio program is “This American Life” on National Public Radio. Each week they tell real life stories linked around a common theme. This morning I listened to an extraordinarily moving segment entitled “Unconditional Love”. Hopefully your computer will alow you to go to This American Life, click archives and listen to this segment. The two stories they tell after the intro are very moving, and remind me of stories from within our congregation.


  1. Justin
    04 Oct 2006 15:31:08

    The radio program you referenced can be found here:
    “Unconditional Love” is Episode 317 (right now at the top of the archive list).

    A coworker turned me on to NPR (93.9 WNYC) a few years ago, and I have found this and many other programs it offers a welcome relief from the canned music and talking heads that are crowding much of the public airwaves these days.

  2. Justin
    04 Oct 2006 16:56:50

    Wow – I just finished listening to “Unconditional Love” So glad you recommended this one, Jeff. Two moving and inspirational stories that illustrate just how deep and complicated Parental Love can truly be. Wish there was a way we could play the whole thing for the congregation (though clocking in at nearly an hour that would hardly be practical during a Sunday Service, I suppose).

  3. Al
    04 Oct 2006 17:00:02

    It was not until I was an adult of some age that I found myself free to have an opinion that didn’t fit the box. It was significant for me to realize I had an opinion. It took off from there.

    My favorite time of day is also in the morning between the time when I wake up and my eyes open. My brain slowly starts to function, coming out of the subconscious into the conscious, and it is at such times that fascinating thoughts arise that I would not have known were there.

  4. Pastor Jeff
    04 Oct 2006 19:02:07

    Yes, Justin, the radio pieces dealing with parenting are extraordinary.

  5. Susan
    05 Oct 2006 01:26:44

    Back in kindergarten, my brother didn’t do too well by his teacher’s standards. One day a big red F was on his nicely drawn rendition of a snowman. “We were drawing bluebirds today!” was the added comment.

    Another day and another F showed up on a drawing that displayed a maze of intersecting lines and scribbles. The class had been instructed to draw a family trip. The others drew cars with smiling faces – my brother had THIS. When Mom asked him about it later that day, he proceeded to show and explain an actual family road trip, complete with all the curves, left and right turns, and then a different return trip back.

    Creativity…and chaos, indeed.

  6. Pastor Jeff
    05 Oct 2006 06:26:59

    I hope that your brother didn’t succumb to the F. Or perhaps he interpreted the F as standing for “fascinating”, “fearless”, or best yet, “fun.”

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