Monday, February 22, 2010

The Tao of Creativity: Moving forward and backward through time

Yesterday, Craig and I had a conversation about cleaning up. We were analyzing what prevents people from cleaning up after themselves; why do they not immediately clean up their mess after doing creative (either artistic or productive); and why not later, as the mess piles up? Craig said that he imagined the reason why people let their spaces get messy is because they do not have a designated space for objects. This led me to the counter positioned theory that rather than not having designated space, one might not have designated time.

I developed a theory about cleanliness as it relates to time rather than space. When one is working towards a goal, one is moving forward through time. The more goals to be achieved - and the less mindfulness - the faster one moves through time towards these goals. Cleaning, though, might be understood as moving backward through time. In cleaning, one must revisit the places one has previously passed through.

I made Craig follow me through the apartment as I visually exemplified my theory. I pretended to be late for work, and quickly ran to the bathroom, opened the cabinet, and pulled out my brush. I ran it through my hair a few times, and described this entire process as "moving forward". Then, the moment that my hair was brushed, I called attention to my hand on the brush, and where the brush was ultimately going. Putting the brush down was a sort of neutral moving through time - the brush is neither comes with me, nor does it return to it's rightful place in the cabinet. To return it to it's former organized position, I would have to mentally stop my forward momentum, turn back (both physically and also symbolically-chronologically) and REplace the brush where it was in the past. I highlight "re" as in return, redo, etc. A REturn, turning backwards. Even the language - "putting something back" - implies a moving into the past.

If my mind is busy and non-mindful, and I am living completely in forward momentum, I will quite naturally drop the brush in the time-neutral position and move foward to the next goal - breakfast perhaps. Time neutral is not space-neutral, however, and, as time moves forward, my time neutral drops become space cluttering mess. In the grander scheme, as my space becomes more cluttered, my revisits to the past must become even more large in scope (there are more things past to return to) - every dropped object necessitates a return to the past of it's having been dropped, and, if I am stuck in forward momentum, the return to the past will seem more arduous the larger it becomes, until my home is full of object-reminders of a past I do not have the inclination to return to. I am now addicted to the future.

So, if one wants to keep one's space uncluttered, space itself is much less important that one's relationship to time. Ideally, one would embrace and practice the dance of past-present-future: in every forward movement is an equal and opposite backward movement - for every creative act into the future, one must take an equal step backwards to clean up the impact of that creative act. This step backward is a form of processing, or revisiting, the act of creativity; a vital step in maintaining a full awareness of oneself and one's environment.

In this we find the balance of creation, the Tao of creativity.

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