Friday, December 14, 2007

The Passive Part of Creativity

A lovely essay I came across in an old thrift-shop New Yorker (June 16, 1977) extols the pleasure and power of pausing and letting something happen, of yielding to the natural rhythms of processes.

Letting bread rise is the obvious example. Or pregnancy.

Letting an idea cook also has much to be said for it. Or letting a draft sit until it's possible to see it fresh. (I have so far found the latter physically impossible.)

What was most interesting about this piece by Noelle Oxenhandler is how sensuous and whimsical she made the experience of what could be called waiting.

Sensuous: the simple matter of letting a newly-washed floor dry..."to lie on my back in the grass watching the clouds, my wet mop beside me, while inside the house th ewater shapes dried on clean, lemony wood floors."

Whimsical, following the odd impulse: A young blind man was gathering strength for action in the French Resistance movement against the Nazis. In spite of his sense of urgency, he felt he should first take dancing lessons. "What courage," she writes, "to dance on the brink of war, on the threshold of Buchenwald. To give oneself the time to evoke or to exorcise whatever inner forces were needed or stood in the way of action. And how difficult--except with hindsight--to see this as courage."

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