The creature-creator

Who does not enjoy good food, especially when it is wholesome and tasty? Highly relished, it disappears no sooner than it is served. Preparing it, however, is another matter. It calls for time, hard work and ingenuity, proof that while it is difficult to create, consuming it is simple indeed.

Man’s ability to create is greater than that of any other animal. Of course, lesser beings create too – plants and trees produce flower and fruit, bees build intricate honeycombs and the tiny tailorbird can stitch, with only the help of its small beak, a beautiful and cozy nest. However, they are all driven by instinct and do not function as agents of innovation.

Man, on the other hand, succeeds in adopting new methods and comes up with improved patterns in much of what he does. Aided by his great power of imagination, he has given to the world mighty temples and beautiful works of art, science, literature and philosophy. They are, all of them, the result of the marvellous gift he has of thinking in abstract terms.

The human being, as Dr Radhakrishnan has pointed out, is a creature-creator. While he cannot breathe life into an inanimate object, he can by inspiring and awakening his imaginative abilities, discover and invent and thus open up new realms of living.

Every individual possesses this power. Whether the person is a tinker, tailor or scientist, he can through his vision and efforts uncover fresh facets of living. Creativity however is a hard taskmaster and will smile only on those who work with persistence and dedication. What the great musician Beethoven told an admirer sums this up well.

An enthusiastic woman once told him, ‘Oh, Sir, if God had only given me that gift of genius!’ Replied Beethoven, ‘It is not genius, madam. Nor is it magic. All you have to do is to practise on your piano eight hours a day for forty years and you’ll be as good as I am!’
We see then that while the creative way of life is rewarding, it is a demanding one, full of struggles. Why then does man indulge in mindless destruction?

Each day brings into open more evidence of this. Nothing seems to stop us from polluting the atmosphere, defiling our rivers and tearing down forests. We seem to have few qualms too in destroying public property built at great cost or wasting irreplaceable resources. Our ability to create is matched, it seems, with an equal propensity to destroy.

Destruction is the very opposite of creation and not merely in terms of semantics. While creativity takes us closer to finer feelings, values and a spiritual outlook, destruction puts us in touch anger, greed and our baser instincts. Worse, it takes us to the edge of extinction, for it takes but a moment to destroy what hundreds of years have produced.

The creative spirit alone will help us reach our better selves. It is that which teaches and reveals to us the richness of the world, its wonders and its values.  Without it we lead what Erich Fromm calls ‘unlived lives’; with it we turn into what we should be --  ‘creature creators’.

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