Thursday, May 14, 2009

Creating Beyond Ego

I love creative genius. I delight in participating in the creative process and feel frustrated when the creative juices running through me crash into obstacles. With the me-centered structure of the human mind coloring every thought word and action, I, like most people, have seen myself as the center of my creative endeavors. For a number of years, however, that sense of authorship has been crumbling. The sense of creative control and mastery I once thought was mine has given way to the experience of being a wave in the creative ocean of living.

Instead, it appears more authentic to own up to the fact that my personal viewpoint is not the source, course and manifestation of the creative process. As an architect, my work is the continuation of a line of designers and builders that stretches into the dim past when someone used some branches to make a primal shelter for a sacred fire. In the future, there will be countless architects and builders struggling with the same issues of making a roof both waterproof and inspiring. With each design choice, I draw on the past and peer into future possibilities. Yet, I do this through a cultural lens that I learned from those who came before me. Look and any design magazine and you will see that most of the buildings of a certain era share qualities of design that reflect the mindset of that era.

Beyond that, I daily inherit countless other factors that shape my creative work. The language I speak, my gender, where I live on the planet, the food I eat, etc. are not of my making, but they influence my thinking and actions. The more I look at this situation the more I realize that the me I hold as so individual and separate has little individuality and no separateness. 

To my sense of creative identity, this is terrifying and confusing. It's terrifying because my identify is based in the idea that separateness protects me and makes my actions worthwhile. It's confusing because I'm unsure how to create from a place that is not self-centered.

In response, I've abandoned goal-oriented projects. The bright ideas that once spurred me to engage in writing a book that might take months or years of sweat and to complete now dissolve almost as soon as they arise. Now, I open to the creative flow and see where it takes me. Currently, something is developing that, interestingly enough, may be the most original work I've done. Why I'm pursuing this, I don't know. Fantasies of saving the world while gaining fame and fortune seem childish. They dilute the task at hand. I seem to be creating simply because that's what I do. I'm less like the image of the genius artist in his studio and more like an apple tree producing fruit.

In this time of so many sincere efforts to save the planet, the children and other valuable causes, I wonder if we might be more effective if we checked our ego-centered notions of creativity and healing at the door, sensed our individual waves of identity as movements in the ocean of living, and let the genuine currents moving within carry us away.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

The Shimmering Gate of the Mind, Architecture & World

Architecture provides a shimmering gate into the fluid structure of the mind and the world. We're usually too busy to notice this. When I stop for a moment and really look, I realize I'm not seeing the building in front of me at all. Instead, I'm seeing my thoughts about it. More likely, I'm seeing my thoughts about 1,000 other things. The constant mind flow cascades like a waterfall between me and the object I imagine I'm looking at. The me in this case is that silent observer that is aware of my thoughts. What I'm looking at might be a gas station or a museum, but I can't them for the flood of thought between us. 

The problem with this is that I believe my thoughts are the architecture. But they are simply the story my mind is spinning about the architecture. "It's this style."..."It's well designed."..."It's a piece of crap."... "I could have designed it better."... And the problem with that is being lost in my mind's thought video reinforces the sense of a separate self that can be supported or harmed. It reinforces a disconnect from life, instilling fear and isolation.

Becoming aware of this process of me, the mind stream and the architecture on the other side of it, allows me to see through the waterfall of thoughts and actually perceive the architecture. When that happens, I see how the architecture is a solidification of the cultural mind-stream we dwell within. I see reflections of the collective hopes and fears, the creativity and mediocrity, the economics and the politics. I see how we live within structures of the mind and believe we are living in the world.

Looking deeper still, I see passed the designed form into spaciousness, into that silent hum of unmoving movement. That's when things get interesting. I see that a piece of architecture doesn't have to be only about itself. It doesn't have to scream, "Look at me!" It can be a gateway into the womb of creative energy and wisdom. It can be can opening to connection and peace. Architecture can be a portal to new possibilities and freedom.