Creativity: The “Fate of Poetry”

Caribbean poet Derrick Walcott, on accepting the Nobel Prize for poetry in 1992, remarked: “The fate of poetry is to fall in love with the world in spite of history.”  Allow me to attempt to unpack some of the wisdom from this pregnant sentence.

First, I would substitute for the word ‘poetry’ any other art form as well—music, novels, dance, film, pottery, wood carving, ritual-making, story telling, etc.

Derrick Walcott (Wikipedia)

The heart of his statement is this: “To fall in love with the world in spite of history.”  History—both collective and personal—is not always pretty.  It is often rough and raw and painful and destructive.  The good do not always triumph.  Nor does justice.  Nor truth.  And those who write history are often with the winners, not necessarily with the most just or most compassionate or most loving.  So sometimes history does double-destruction—not only the defeat of the powerless but often even in the telling of the defeat. 

Today history is not at all pretty.  Open the internet to any news story and more often than not painful headlines greet you—the devastation of climate change for example, the loss of waters to extraction and pollution; the melting of glaciers; the rise of the seas; the ferocity of hurricanes; fires raging in rainforests in the Amazon, the Arctic, and Africa; millions forced to flee the inundation or burning or bombing of their homelands; families separated and held in detention centers; the extermination of many species from insects to birds and four-legged wonders; the acidification of the oceans, on and on….

466 Saudi Attack Kills Civilians: U.S. made bombs killed six civilians in Yemen, including three children, Amnesty International said Sept. 25, 2019. Photo: Mohammed Huwais/ AFP/ Getty Images, curated by Felton Davis, Flickr

Human malfeasance greets us daily from murders to massacres, from rip off artists to internet hackers, bankers that support cattle production in rainforests, trophy hunters killing endangered animals, and more.  There are the climate deniers, the huge gulf between haves and have-nots, tax schemes that benefit the super wealthy at the expense of the poor and middle class, on and on.

Yes, history is often difficult to look at.  And to live through.

The “Ode to Joy,” composed when Beethoven was deaf, struggling with depression, and near
the end of his life, has become a worldwide protest anthem and a celebration of music.

BUT here comes the poet and the artist (in all of us): It is all about falling in love with the world in spite of history

Artists are bearers of biophilia therefore, carriers of the love of life.  Carriers of the Via Positiva.  Reasons for living.  Gratitude for existence.  We are invited to stand up to history, to resist its necrophiliac directions.  As Erich Fromm put it: “Necrophilia grows when biophilia is stunted.”  The artist does not stunt biophilia but grows it. 

Don’t we all?  Aren’t we all artists of life choosing to fall in love with life daily in spite of the shadows that history casts?

See Matthew Fox, Creativity: Where the Divine and the Human Meet.
Banner Image: “Starry Night Over the Rhone” by Vincent van Gogh: one of a series of star studies painted during his hospitalization, about which he wrote of a “tremendous need for, shall I say the word—for religion—so I go outside at night to paint the stars.” (Naifeh, Steven and Gregory White Smith (2011). Van Gogh: The Life. New York: Random House. ISBN978-0-375-50748-9.)

Queries for Contemplation

What is your response to the statement that art is about “falling in love with the world in spite of history”?   Does that inspire you to deepen your experience of the Via Creativa and steer it to the Via Transformativa?

Recommended Reading

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.

Responses are welcomed. To add your comment, please click HERE or scroll to the bottom of the page.

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8 thoughts on “Creativity: The “Fate of Poetry””

  1. Avatar

    How wonderful to be awakened by the gorgeous, enduring “Ode to Joy,” not the bleak, oppressive morning news and weather! Thank you. ?

    1. Gail Ransom

      Dear Maria,
      I hope that tomorrow and for many days after, you program your media so that Beethoven’s Ode to Joy comes on first and lifts your spirit. Your comment inspires me to do the same. Sometimes we for get that we have a choice about how we frame our days!
      Gail Sofia Ransom
      For the Daily Meditation Team

    1. Gail Ransom

      Dear Joseph,
      Of course, Matt’s list or art forms was not exhaustive and photography belongs on it. Photography is an interesting form because it is used to record history as well as open our eyes to the divine presence within the image captured in film. If you are a photographer, please keep taking pictures. Show us what we need to see.
      Gail Sofia Ransom
      For the Daily Meditation Team

  2. Avatar
    Byron Leger Brunelle

    I agree, Matthew, with all you are saying about God’s creation, but what about diseases, harmful insects, etc., which are harmful to mankind and other living creatures. They are also God’s creation. Should we say do not eradicate these things as they are also God’s creation? Let them do their God-given thing.

    1. Gail Ransom

      Dear Byron,
      There is some Via Negativa in every species. It’s the nature of creation to have destructive capabilities and vulnerabilities in every form, breathing and non-breathing. There is an interplay between elements as each creates the opportunity for another creature to deconstruct and reconstruct their lives. Death is a part of it. We die and we generate new life out of our remains. It is the massive flow of the Four Paths of Creation Spirituality. And, yes, we should leave this be.
      Gail Sophia RAnsom
      For the Daily Meditations team

    1. Gail Ransom

      Dear Kathleen,
      Tears of joy are what Beethoven’s Ninth is all about. Music history taught us that he wrote this symphony for the edification of the people of his day – while he, himself, a musician, was going deaf. Through the miracle of music, this triumph over adversity has reached across time to inspire joy in you as well. May you continue to find joy in the midst of your adversity..
      Gail Sofia Ransom
      For the Daily Meditations Team

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