Creativity is a Prayer; and Prayer, Creativity

True creation (of the humble sort of which humans are capable) is always subcreation. It’s a something we submit humbly to the world, to our fellows, and to the Divine. It’s not innovation or novelty. It’s allowing the eternal themes to play through our bodies, our minds, our words.

When I play “Over the Sea to Skye” on my violin — an extremely simple tune to play — I am being creative, and I am praying. It takes a bare minimum of skill and practice of course (you can’t just pick up a violin for the first time, say “Ommmm” to the universe and then whip out Brahms’ Concerto). But assuming I know the notes, know how to hold it, then I will get the most beautiful music when I let myself be a conduit for the song.

Ugly music — noise — can be had if I try and think about “expressing myself” and hack at the strings like a splatter-painter “recording his motions” by flinging paint on the wall.

So creativity is a prayer. But prayer is also creativity… it is our purest form of creativity. It’s our central act as humans, as a matter of fact. We don’t pray so that we can live; we live so that we can pray. The whole purpose of being alive is to be called to the Divine, and to answer the call when it comes. That’s letting the Divine Song play through your life, through your being; just as one lets the simple Scottish tune play through the wood and horsehair of the violin.

Food, friendship, family, work, sex, leisure — even pain and suffering — all are manifestations of the Divine song. All are notes in the tune. And all exist only to be transformed into their true forms. Of what the ultimate Truth of life looks like, we get only the tiniest glimpses. But it is in prayer and quietude oriented towards the Divine that we begin to transform these things and understand, at least a little.

And we’re practicing for that moment when the Divine will overwhelm us, whether we desire it or not.


8 comments on “Creativity is a Prayer; and Prayer, Creativity

  1. zhai2nan2 says:

    ‘Food, friendship, family, work, sex, leisure — even pain and suffering — all are manifestations of the Divine song. All are notes in the tune. And all exist only to be transformed into their true forms. ‘

    This suggests two difficult theological points.

    If the universe is God’s song, then presumably He knows how to play it in advance. (Is He playing from a sheet of written music, or is He improvising, or both?)

    If God has written the song, how is it that we can not be perfect notes in the song all along? If we have to cast off our illusion and become our true selves, what is the nature of illusion outside the true song?

  2. Kristor says:

    @ zhai2nan2: God’s song is a prayer, too. It is a prayer to his creatures. To the prayers of their Lord, almost all creatures say, “yes.” Some don’t. Their power to say “no” is part and parcel of their actual existence as beings that are not God.

    God is improvising, and he knows what he is playing. You can’t improvise unless you know what you are playing. Did God know what he is playing ahead of time? Yes, for his whole being is ahead of time, and includes all times. That doesn’t mean he isn’t improvising. When we say of God that he is making it up as he goes along, we don’t say anything that contradicts our saying that he makes it up all at one fell swoop. His whole process of going along is one fell swoop.

  3. bgc says:

    I’m not so sure.

    Professional classical musicians are among the shallowest people; professional actors are *the* shallowest people – yet they are creative…

    • outofsleep says:

      Hmm. I don’t know any professional classical musicians. But the two most dedicated amateurs/semi-professionals I know (one violinist and one folk guitarist) are both quite beautiful people in their own way. Who says that professionals are the truest expression of their art? Most skillful, yes.

      Is there not maybe here a relation between the over-specialization in meaningless science you talk about on your blog, and the professionalization of music? Songs among friends around a fire, or singers in an amateur (but dedicated) church choir, me squeaking out “What Child Is This?” on my violin… that’s more what I was talking about.

  4. imnobody says:

    you must be interested in the book named “how the west was lost”. it claims that classical music is the utmost expression of worship and western societ. bach was the highest exponent and mozrt was pretty close because they were fixated on god. beethoven was a transition figure because he was so self-cntered. since him it all has been decline. one of the aspects of this decline is that music goes froma focus on creatio to a focus on execution: concerts and the like

  5. imnobody says:

    i meant “you may be interested”

  6. Kristor says:

    As a former professional classical musician, I can say that there are some among that fraternity who are fools, and some who are wise, and some who are saints. Most of them are just folks, making a living in music. As with anything, there is a danger as one rises through the ranks and approaches fame that one will begin to think it is all about oneself. But those who thus err never make it to the foremost ranks of musicians, who are all trying as hard as they can to let the music pour through them as it would, and uninterrupted. The great ones wear fame lightly. They are all about something much different and much larger than themselves. Often those selves get in the way; not an unusual predicament.

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