Thursday, December 10, 2009

Freedom and Limits: the Creative Parodox

The complexity embodied by a hand crafted tapestry points to a paradox found in creative power: the very act of creating is an act of establishing limits. Think about it- the tapestry maker limits herself to this scene and not that one; these colors and not those. She's also has to work within the limits of her time and her place; a time and place that had sophisticated colorants and materials- a time and place that evolved from her cave drawing ancestors. Without limits, nothing can be made let alone exist: without limits generic atoms can't form into proprietary molecules that event-ually make up dyes and thread.

But the highest form of freedom is to be unlimited isn't it? You'd think so but it's not. This is why I referred to it as a paradox within creative power. (Two things to clarify here: I'm using "creative power" in place of "creativity" because in our culture, creativity has been domesticated into an aptitude of being able to make crafty doo-dads. In reality, creativity is a deep power unique to Human Being ((and God)). Secondly, paradox simply put, is a contradictory structure that still works, but though it works, it just shouldn't oughtta be, it goes against our sense of things- para: outside of, dox: what is within our common sense of the world. In contrast to paradox then, orthodox is the way something fits rightly into our sense of things.) So if nothing can exist apart from limits, then freedom has to be about something other than being limit-less. If this be the case, then what would happen if we began to think of freedom, not as freedom from limits, but- going boldly into the creative paradox- we began to see freedom as our capacity and ability to interact with limits in a way that creates more creative power and prowess?

Case in point. In today's political environment, those on the far right have churned freedom into a frothy battle cry. And at the core of this battle cry is their blind worship of "free markets" in a way that demands a market place freed from limits; that any sort of limit only handcuffs the market. But what in our world could this actually mean if without limits, nothing can exist? Such blind cries make a lot of heat but little light- and ultimately, are probably more destructive than creative. A truly creative market place interacts skillfully with limits rather than trying to abolish them. A truly free market place, if it is to be truly free, has to be free from dogmatism- a belief in an idea regardless of its coherence to reality: such blind worship makes for gods that are incoherent to reality.

Another case in point. We are limited by our need for water; yet we're free to interact with this limit and we've done so brilliantly in the shape of modern plumbing. I read somewhere that about 90% of our health today doesn't stem from modern medicine but from modern plumbing: our ability to bring clean water in and remove our waste so efficiently has played the lead role in ridding the diseases that plagued the generations before us. Plumbing, as mundane as it seems, is a stellar example of our creative power provided by the life made from limits.

And while we're talking about limits in the context of water, what do we who are so adept with water do in the parts of our world where the limits posed by water and its lack threaten "our Other's" existence- let alone their well being?

Limits. Without them atoms remain generic hovering blobs- if that. With them, atoms get to participate in something as amazing as water. And if they become fortunate enough to participate in a human being such as yourself, they get to participate in a world that you, whether you like it or not, are helping create.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Tapestries and Velvet Elvises

The etymology of the word complicate is very telling: it originates from the experience of a tapestry, both in the looking and the making. Contemplating a hand made tapestry or Persian rug, provides a lot of insight into what I'm trying to convey through my use of the concept of complexity in this blog.

Looking at a well made tapestry is a true wonder of complexity. The rich colors, remarkable details, and the complicated designs and themes, are all carried out without the use of Auto-Cad, industrial dyes or computer-numerically-controled (CNC) sewing machines. What a leap from our cave drawing in France some thousands of years ago. And of course, who can resist the urge to look at a tapestry's back side, thinking that we'll be able to see how such a piece of majesty is accomplished, only to see even further, just how complicated a tapestry truly is? Complexity in this case, doesn't lead to confusion, it leads to beauty and wonder.

Now, compare the tapestry displayed on the museum wall to the black-velvet paintings displayed outside an old dinjy white van parked on an abandoned street side lot (often sharing the space with a van selling gulf shrimp). We might fashionably gag and chide the brash colors made bold by their black fury canvas, but you have to admit that the images are quite striking- you turned your head and looked didn't you? I did and I still shudder.

So a black-velvet painting (bvp) is striking, but is it beautiful? Recognizing that a post modern thinker would strive to find a way in which to equate a bvp to a tapestry, I would say that the main difference between a tapestry and a bvp is a matter of complexity: a tapestry draws us into wonder and deep regard for the life we're involved in. A bvp on the other hand, lacks such complexity and can only briefly titalate. And as to our regard, the best it can solicit from us is our sense of kitsch.

I would ask here now, when you look around at the culture that we've made together, does it look more like an inspiring tapestry, or does it look more like something kitsch?