In caves in Africa on the shore of the Atlantic Ocean, scientists have recently discovered artifacts dating to 90,000 years ago. These findings indicate that human culture as we know it began in Africa, not in Europe; and it began about 60,000 years earlier than we had previously figured. Anatomically modern humans began in Africa at least 130,000 years ago but it is by their artifacts and art work that archeologists determine how human these beings were.
St. Paul writes about knowing our “true nature.” Who are we truly?
I propose that when all is said and done, it is of our very nature to make artifacts. It is of our very nature to create. Our true nature is our creativity.
Psychologist Rollo May concurs when he says: “The creative process must be explored not as the product of sickness, but as representing the highest degree of emotional health, as the expression of the normal people in the act of actualization of themselves.” A human is a biped who makes things. Anthropologists know they have encountered our immediate ancestors when they find a biped with artifacts nearby.
When the Bible declares that we are made in the “image and likeness” of the Creator, it is affirming that creativity is at our core just as it lies at the core of the Creator of all things. Not only the Bible but other traditions also celebrate our nearness to the creative powers of Divinity. The Sufi mystic Hafiz declares:
All the talents of God are within you.
How could this be otherwise
When your soul
derived from His genes!
An ancient meso-American poet tells us that God dwells in the heart of the artist and the artist draws God out of his or her heart when the artist is at work.
We are creators at our very core—only creating can make us happy, for in creating we tap into the deepest powers of self and universe and the Divine Self. We become co-creators, that is, we create with the other forces of society, universe and the Godself, when we commit to creativity.
Who are we then? We are makers and fabricators, we are free, we are active, we are interesting, we are interested and curious, we are part of a vast, creative universe, we are energetic and alive, we are creators and co-creators.
Adapted from Matthew Fox, Creativity: Where the Divine and the Human Meet, 27-29.
Banner Image: “The Blacksmith is an artist making pieces of ironwork: Detmold, Germany.” Photo by Malcolm Lightbody on Unsplash
Queries for Contemplation
Are you on board with the definition that humans are bipeds who make things? What are the implications of this for your own self-understanding and growth? What are the implications for our understanding of education and the schools we support and learning for all people from children through adults?
Because creativity is the key to both our genius and beauty as a species but also to our capacity for evil, we need to teach creativity and to teach ways of steering this God-like power in directions that promote love of life (biophilia) and not love of death (necrophilia). Pushing well beyond the bounds of conventional Christian doctrine, Fox’s focus on creativity attempts nothing less than to shape a new ethic.