The Power Of A Timeless Creative Mind
The following article, The Timeless Creative Mind, is an excerpt from a chapter titled “Timeless Creativity” (working title) from the forthcoming paperback, The Artist’s Manifesto.
The published chapter will have expanded detail from the perspective of physics although it won’t be exhaustive, as this book is not attempting to verify the existence or not of time from a scientific perspective.
However, the chapter will include links to relevant material from those with greater credentials than I to speak of these things.
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In this chapter, we will explore the nature and function of time as it influences the creative mind, and why you, the artist, must find the space to create independently from it.
In separation from the idea of time, we allow ourselves the mental capacity to make great things without restriction.
This process happens for some creative people entirely automatically, but for many, the space to create away from self imposed demands of contemporary life is difficult to find.
Worldly things such as family responsibilities, financial demands, the day job, TV, peer influence and so on, have the potential to feed the creative muse.
But going unchecked, they serve as distractions, dilutants of our psychic energy and focus of attention.
In The Artist’s Manifesto, we read how the nature of the creative process is a constant moving between this world of people and bright shiny things and the artist’s quiet creative space. Finding balance in this too and fro of life is vital to our wellbeing and creativity. The Artist’s Manifesto does not support the idea that we must obliterate those things that challenge us. Instead, it suggests we see them for what they are; necessary in limited quantities for the constant creation and expression of the self.
The Artist’s Manifesto recognises that every human being is creative and has the inherent ability to create beautiful things. However, the pressure to conform to social norms and societal ideals of what valuable work is, keeps many of us from ever realising our latent creative abilities. For many of us, there is the belief that we are not creative at all. For the rest, we believe we are time short. We believe that there are far too many important things to do than to entertain ourselves with fanciful notions of doing what we love, let alone making a living from it. Work is paramount and inextricably linked to our self worth. The necessity to labour continuously at something we don’t like for the sake of money is our common idea here.
Most of us in western industrialised society feel the pressure and incessant responsibility to comply with popular conventions such as time. Although time shortageness bears down on us heavily, it seems to be a socially acceptable tyranny. We discuss our lack of time with other kindred spirits in the struggle, almost wearing lack of time as a badge of honour. We try to cram in as many activities as possible into our standard sixteen hour waking day. We try to be as productive as we can, to show our peers and family we are capable of delivering, that we can succeed. Within that sphere of thought we anticipate, and mostly fear a future that never gets here. And we lament or regret a past we can never revisit.
Our society says this is how the system works. If you want to be a part of it, to be a successful and responsible member of this society then this is what you need to do. The collective voice says that it’s dangerous on the outside, it’s safe on the inside. To be different and unique is to be isolated and alone. So we chase the dream, we pursue a non-existent future. We talk negatively to ourselves when we fail to meet our own, or other’s expectations. We often seem prepared to damage relationships with those we love for the sake of fulfilment of those expectations. All the while we value so highly this invisible commodity, lament its scarcity and our apparent inability to make the most of it. We seek advice from time management experts, we buy books and courses to help us become more organised and efficient. There just seems to be not enough time. If only we had more, or could be more efficient with the time we have.
The problems begin for you and me in our earliest days. In school and via popular media we are taught to conform to other people’s rules. We are told to hurry up, be on time; time is of the essence, time is money, efficiency is paramount, results, grades! Memory and recall of information is the key to success they say. Measurement against our peers is the criteria upon which our worthiness is gauged and from this comes our internal sense of worth and value. In the aligned group pursuit of goal-directed outcomes, such as team sports, for example, conformity can be a constructive and positive thing. However, for the creative mind in this boxed-in academic environment hinged to time consciousness, there is often frustration and a feeling of being lost and worthless in a world we do not belong to. For many kids in the standard education model, learning is a genuinely uncomfortable and stressful time.
What Is Time?
It’s strange, we all get this feeling of a lack of time yet we can never really explain it, touch it, see it or feel it. What is this thing we call time?
Time is a concept, a rule, a mathematical constant, a social convention we use to measure ourselves and the things we make against the world. Time is a representation of relativity, a measure of one worldly phenomena against another in a place called here and now. Personal time is subjective. Universal time is abstract. However, according to Quantum Gravitational Scientist, Carlo Rovelli, there is no such thing as a universal time, a constant that exists independent of the observer. Newton was wrong and Boltzmann, Einstein and their contepories knew it.
Time seems to pass linearly one way or another – left to right, front to back, up or down. In the western industrialised world, we hold the wholly embedded idea that we live along this line reaching back to the past, through the present and on into a mysterious future. We were born, we live our lives along this line of subsequent events, one creating or leading to the next, then we die. But some people don’t experience time this way. In some eastern cultures, they see time as a stack, one experience on top of the other. Other cultures see time as a scatter of events like a random array of dots on a page. Anthropologists believe the ancient Egyptians saw time as a continuously repetitive cycle linked to the birth and death of their Pharoh, a cycle in which they lived . The native American Hopi tribe made famous by studies of their culture and language by the linguist Benjamin Lee Whorf, see no time. Their language has no verbs that represent a concept of time. They appear to live in an ever-present moment.
Time is intangible, yet we seem to experience it. Its apparent effects are everywhere, most notably in the growth and decay of things including you and me. In scientific terms, we call this growth and decay entropy. Entropy refers to the arrow of time, the apparently irreversible nature of physical processes central to the laws of thermodynamics. In scientific terms, the linear analogy of time is applied in pretty much all interpretation of worldly phenomena. This analogy is the same one we align our real-world experience to so rigidly. But perhaps it’s not time moving in an irreversible line but rather a path of a multitudinous fractal cycle, a cycle within cycles. Like the blossoming of a flower, it will grow out from its centre, die and return to its point of origin beyond the reach of our senses. If you think about the path of magnetic fields, you may be able to picture this process.
Now, you might say that all this talk of no-time is baloney. You say, “I woke this morning, I had a shower, ate my breakfast and went to work on the bus that comes at 08:00. Now it’s evening, so there, that’s the passage of time”. Well, when you did all those things you did them now, and it’s still now. Your remembrance of those things is merely the recall of a series of memory stamps, a series of freeze frames floating in the infinite space of your consciousness. Those experiences are gone, and as you live out new experiences, those previous ones become altered, shift or fade away. Unless that is you hang on to them as a means to form and justify a sense of self.
Some scientists say time is one of the fundamental properties of the universe offered to us in the original concepts of Isaac Newton. In a physical, linear analytical sense, I would tend to agree. However, the idea behind some of the most fundamental ideas in physics might well be flawed. In observations from studies in quantum physics, for example, these Newtonian laws are seen to be inapplicable. The British physicist Julian Barbour in his book The End of Time, suggests that only solution for science and humanity in resolving these problems we face is to remove the idea of time altogether. He says we must reformulate our fundamental understanding of reality. Barbour goes for the idea that this experience is a series of Nows that roll into one another creating a single, ever-present moment in which physical phenomena exist. I like that idea.
There is a place for time just like there is a place for a ruler, a hammer or a weighing scales. But in accessing that place from which inspiration comes, there is no place for it. Time cannot be a conscious factor if that thing you make is to be a genuine piece of you, a reflection of the real you beyond social norms and conventions. If time must come into play in your creative process, then it must be used by you, rather than it using you. Therefore, one of your most significant challenges as an artist is finding the quiet internal space where you can isolate yourself from the influence of this and other abstract concepts.
So, it’s all a bit paradoxical, isn’t it? On the one hand, you have our linear experience of the growth and decay of things telling you time exists, and then there’s the other telling you all there is, is now. So which is it? Although what I’m breaking down here is in itself an answer, I will later propose a one-liner to sum it all up.
Nows within this now, rather like snapshots in an album. Each Now is separate and a world unto itself, but the richly structured Nows ‘know’ about one another because they literally contain one another in certain essential respects. As consciousness surveys many things at once in one Now, it is simultaneously present, at least in part, in other Nows. – Julian Barbour, Physicist and Author.
As you contemplate your future, be it good or bad, you do it now, pre-paving the way for yourself. Everything you’ve ever experienced you have created for yourself either by conscious, purposeful thought or unconscious, automatic thought. We think that in every moment we make conscious decisions about this and that. The momentum of thought influences those choices and as we think we create at a micro level. After maintaining that thought pattern for days, weeks, months, years etc. we create our own experience. So like the ripples in a pond where we cast the stone, they move out from a centre. You and I exist at that creative centre.
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