Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Creativity by Matthew Fox

This book was a gift from my minister. I'm reading it some days at lunchtime at work, and I am kind of torn on its pros and cons. Mostly, I think Fox could be more clear and concise. He's a prolific writer and is very popular in his sort of high church + mysticism + New Age feel good self-help-like genre. His books include some very interesting quotations by different mystics and he's not devoid of insight. He just goes on a bit too much and things start to sound syrupy or fluffy after a while. I won't say his work is hollow, because Fox is passionate and sincere about it, but the work is clearly more inspiration than reasoned explication, and that sort of writing is hard for me to embrace in more than short spurts.

However, as far as inspiration goes, I was reading yesterday at lunch a passage Fox wrote about Taoism and learning to praise. Being thankful has long been an important idea or even mantra in my life: "If the only prayer you said in your whole life was 'Thank you,' that would suffice," wrote Meister Eckhart (Fox is a scholar of Fox and a huge admirer).

I'm guessing nobody here knows who Matthew Fox is. He wrote "Original Blessing," a huge book I read for a book club recently. That book focuses on how we were all created as blessed creatures, that our creativity and imagination are gifts, and that we work with God. He downplays the idea of Original Sin. He doesn't deny sin as a general concept, but he doesn't think we're inherently damaged when we come into this world. Years before we read him in book club, Fox also came up in my studies of Meister Eckhart, about whom I wrote a very bad research paper in grad school. In his "Creativity," Fox writes about how creativity is a holy process, a celebration of and communion with the divine. It's beautiful and heretical and much more in line with my personal theology these days. In the chapter on learning how to praise, Fox explores almost too many metaphors about ways that people can observe nature, reflect on it, and imitate aspects of it. Again, it's fluffy stuff, but it's inspirational also. I decided to reflect on some of my favorite animals and the following sort of thought exercise came out. Not sure the 'point,' but the process felt good. First note: my favorite animal is the elephant.

I am like the elephant, physically present, grounded, able to withstand force, adversity, change. I communicate through the earth, touch and hearing important senses. I recognize change in time. I listen. I am with my herd, sometimes in communion with my many fellow sisters, sometimes leading as matriarch.

I have always wished to be a bird, fluid, mobile, seeing the bigger picture, not just communicating by but delighting people through song.

I am fascinated by snakes, creatures of the earth, self-reliant, their entire bodies raw muscle. They eat occassionally, as needed. They use what they have, conserve, and consume only what they need. They strike when provoked, using natural venom or squeezing with their strength.

I also wrote a bit about lions. I am a Leo (I don't put much stock in astrology, but it is fun), and my boyfriend's name means 'two lions.' I'll save that text for him, I think.

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