Is human creativity an attempt to reconnect with the reality we see with our spiritual eyes?

A friend kindly tweeted me yesterday a quote to encourage me in my writing, which said: “You write because there is fire in your bones. You have got to do this whether anybody ever reads it or not”.

Whilst I appreciated fully the sentiment with which she forwarded this tweet to me, I felt a great unease about the implication in that statement: whether one has an audience or not, one must write and use their writing as an outlet for that fire, that passion, that message, truth that lies deep within them. My reply to this kind lady was “Writing is an art form which makes us feel through another person’s creation. No artist creates something to keep it hidden, a gift must be shared”.

I don’t believe that those of us who feel the absolute need to be creative, be it through a painting, a poem, a novel, a drawing, a sculpture, a song, an instrument, a performance, can create with the same integrity, intent and vulnerability, if we are fully aware that there is no recipient to the art we create. Art stems from an undeniable need to communicate something to the rest of the world, be it for their benefit or our own. Yes, ultimately, as we create art, we experience a moment of reckoning with ourselves, our fears, our longings, our hope, our frustrations, but I believe that being able to create something is a privilege, a tremendous gift from above, an opportunity to reach others where direct words or even actions may fail. I believe that there is a purpose to every gift; there is a responsibility inherent to every talent. For isn’t it in the ability to create something new, something powerful, something way beyond our mundane existence, that as humans we are able to best connect with our spirituality, that side of us which is so mysterious, unexplored, that dimension which remains hidden and yet is so apparent, so beckoning, so vital to our existence and how we relate to the world around us and each other?

It is through art that we depart from the natural and we step into the supernatural; we leave a temporal, ephemeral reality and we take a chance into a world of dreams, hopes and endless possibilities; a world  where the optimum side of the human race fulfils its utmost potential and also a world where the most evil side of humanity is fully realised and visualised too. Art gives us the opportunity to take a glimpse of heaven as well as hell and as we undertake that journey, be it as the artist or the person who explores that work of art, we are able to connect with, explore and develop our innermost self, our own tendencies towards good or evil or both as is the case for most of us.

I am fully persuaded that creativity is a gift and as with every gift, with every good thing, its goodness and worth increases a hundred fold, if we are able to share it with others, if we offer it to others so that they too have access to that other dimension which is so elusive and at the same time so present in all of us. I cannot imagine an actor who would perform to an empty theatre, or a painter whose work gets exhibited in a room which is always empty just as I cannot comprehend the notion of a writer who puts his heart out on a piece of paper for all to see, only he is also expected to bear his soul with the same intensity and passion where there is not a  single witness to benefit from such an introspective and didactic encounter.

Getting back to the quote at the beginning of this post, yes, I write because there is fire in my bones. I write because I feel called to do so. I write because it is in being able to create something outside of myself, which can only be attributed to myself, that I feel most akin, and closest to the God who created me, who put that fire in me in the first place. Perhaps it is worth considering for those who are believers and maybe more so for those who are not, that creativity is the vessel which allows us to break the boundaries of time, place, matter, proof and knowledge, for as we create we reach out into another world, a world where we can give free rein to that inner voice that whispers to us in the quiet of night, and the buzzle of daytime: we are called to a different existence: something more grandiose, something more beautiful, more perfect, more free.

It is almost as if lying deep within all of us there is knowledge of a far superior reality we feel called to fulfil and aspire to, and that knowledge cannot be suppressed no matter how hard we try to deny it in our everyday living. It has to surface somehow. Art is like bubbling magma under the surface fully aware that its sole purpose is to eventually burst out with uncontrollable magnitude into the surface and annihilate with it the certainty of anything that exists and is secure up to that point. Creativity challenges all of us from what we know into a world of what we might suspect exists but refuse to accept.

 

 

Celebrity Culture is the most inexcusable form of ignorance

In an age where Social Media is King, personal interaction and family values have become the next casualty in a long line of species which have and are becoming extinct. Celebrities have become our God. As long as the distance between them and us is kept, so is their perfection and inability to do wrong in our eyes. We live in a world full of awe, mystery and wonder. We find ourselves right at the centre of it, and yet we are utterly lost, confused as to what is our purpose, the meaning of our endless toil and weariness throughout our brief lifetime in a vast expanse of infinite, glorious space and time. We spend our life desperately looking for answers in all the wrong things; we pursue happiness through all the wrong avenues. Yes, some do make the journey slightly more bearable for a time: alcohol, drugs, money, sex, you name it, but after the hysteria and adrenaline ebb away, after each binge, comes an even bigger fall, a deeper pit we struggle to get out of, as we come once again face to face with the bottom-line realisation that we are flawed and in desperate need of rescuing.

And so having tried all the usual avenues for a quick fix and despite the fact that history has taught us time and time again that all these paths lead nowhere, like dogs we go back to our vomit; we become suckers for punishment, and then we pridefully pat ourselves on the back and remind ourselves and each other that it is our intelligence that sets us apart from the animal kingdom. Something is different today, though. We have gone from an age of Theism, Agnosticism, Atheism, etc. to the worst and most SELF-DESTRUCTIVE alternative: Discarding the logic possibility that a God could have made us into His own image and believing instead the nonsensical illusion that it is us who can make Gods in our own image and be sustained, rescued and healed by them.

And so it began, an Era where we no longer entertain the possibility of a Superior Being, a spiritual reality which has brought about the heavens, the earth and everything that is in it. Instead, we use our superior intellect to come up with the alternative of making Gods of other people, venerating them and putting them on a pedestal. So long as these celebrities remain distant and out of reach, we can sustain the illusion that it is they who define the optimum state of being that any human can aspire to: to be successful, internationally recognised, to look aesthetically pleasing, to have charisma, sex appeal, do good deeds, champion a cause or dip in an out of altruistic pursuit often enough to sustain the lie that their life is more selfless, worthy of recognition or called to a higher purpose than that of the rest of us mere mortals.

Social Media lends itself perfectly as the optimum medium, the ideal environment which  can turn celebrities into our own personal Gods with the mere click of a button. But let’s remind ourselves at this point that those of us who look up to and even adore celebrities are not the only culpable party in this sad and cancerous fallacy. Celebrities for the most part willingly feed and thrive in this lifeline that evolution and technological progress has handed to them. Yes, there are many whose reputation precedes them for their dignity, honesty, hard work, dedication and commitment to their craft, but these values are not present to any lesser degree in a mum who dedicates her life to sacrificially giving of herself to her children, or a husband who sacrificially commits to making his marriage a success. I could give you a thousand examples of “everyday” people, faceless individuals whose lives are full of honour, dedication, hard-work and sacrifice, but the difference being that what they do is done in secret, without expecting anything back, or assuming a self-righteous sense of entitlement to special treatment by the rest of us. These faceless individuals are the true unsung heroes of our time, the real human beings who live with purpose, whose unassuming presence and unapparent progress causes invisible ripples of transformation and goodness which ultimately make our world a better place.

What is the number one criteria which defines a God? Perfection. Our human intellect and life itself give us enough proof that no human being is perfect, but add to the mix the convenient ingredient of creating a virtual reality, a cloud where the only acceptable currency is “make believe and having more than a hundred thousand followers”, and presto you can produce a God out of any celebrity in a matter of seconds. Furthermore, celebrities can keep that God image alive infinitely by intervening in the proceedings every once in a while and feeding their devoted worshippers the next delicious morsel by way of a twitter, Facebook, Instagram, etc. entry, which will keep them loyal and prevent them from becoming defiant until the next time. How easy it is to help others put us on a pedestal when we create a safe distance where no one has access to who we really are behind closed doors, to who we really are when no one is looking or reading. How easy it is to appear humble, focused, committed and dedicated to a higher cause than our own success and development, when we don’t have to surrender anything, make any personal sacrifices, or give any of our choices and everyday luxuries up in order for that to happen. Simply retweet a link to a charitable cause or endorse someone else’s altruistic work and let the thousands of followers/worshippers reach into their pocket and do the rest for you , raise that much needed profile, reputation and awareness across the earth in a matter of seconds; raise the millions needed to bring action to desperate places and people with the click of a button and get all the credit and further veneration from your loyal subjects.

The longer a celebrity can sustain their mysterious aura, that manufactured image which followers are desperate to trust and believe as real, the more their Godly status will be enhanced and accepted, and how can one do this? By cleverly marketing themselves and surrounding themselves with smart PR companies who know what sells and how to sell it. Study your target market carefully, what your fans crave for and then just feed them exactly that, never letting them see WHO truly lies at the core of that illusion they have created and which you have done nothing to dissipate: a flawed human being in search of answers to deep existential questions just as much as you and I, an imperfect being on an unending quest for love and acceptance as much as the next ordinary person.

This Celebrity Culture however, sustained by the elusiveness and lack of accountability propitiated by social media, is doomed to self-destruct from the onset, for even those celebrities turned into Gods can’t live up to other people’s unattainable expectations, and inevitably they trip and fall along the way, just like the rest of us do. Some can hide it better than others, but nothing truly goes unseen or unheard any more in this electronic world we live in; in this Big Brother existence we lead. Many celebrities create an image of humility, integrity, consistency, goodness and selflessness, of living for others and not themselves but soon enough thousands of shreds of evidence to the contrary circulate globally. They paint themselves in a particular light but a picture here or a quote there betrays their secret and their chimera no longer stands.

And so it finally dawns on us that being a celebrity is not all it is cracked up to be; that so many celebrities have earned the right to look at the rest of us from up high on their lofty pedestals on no other grounds than because we were weak and ignorant enough to put them there.

SIGNS AND WONDERS ARE ALL AROUND US – PART 3

Our holiday certainly got off to a very interesting start. Approximately 10 hours after our wonderful but altogether spooky encounter with Martin Freeman at Heathrow airport, we touched down on North American soil, and what a soil that is. It saddens me greatly that having witnessed such glorious landscapes and communities with such diverse and heroic provenance, America’s presence in today’s world news is dominated by gun crime occurrences and senseless killings.

The flight from London to Denver was rather uneventful which is always a welcome state of affairs, bearing in mind hundreds of people are completely at the mercy of technology and the skill, competence and work ethic of the two men or women at the helm. Nevertheless, it is worth mentioning that as another little bit of encouragement sent my way was the presence of a third pilot who was sitting with his family right next to us on the plane. In the mind of a person who is a nervous flyer, two pilots are better than one but having three pilots on board is even better than two.

I cannot go into detail about every single place we stopped at during our road trip. We covered over 3,000km by car and so I will only mention my highlights, those moments during which the signs and wonders that stand before you help you regain that much-needed sense of perspective which we often neglect as we bear the burden of everyday life’s concerns and responsibilities.

I have always been very intrigued by the journey of the pioneers across North America; I have always been stunned by their courage and boldness to abandon everything they knew to go chasing the unknown, chasing their dreams of a better life. This fascination of mine became even more poignant when I discovered a few years back that my own great-grandfather left the Basque Country in the North of Spain and travelled to San Francisco, California, in 1907, for these very same reasons and with this very same adventurous spirit which perhaps as for so many, was born out of an asphyxiating sense of desperation. It seems my great grandfather’s gamble paid off and he spent 40 years of his life in the States, returning to Spain at the end of his life with a small fortune and plenty of stories to be passed down the generations.

I knew that though he arrived in California, he spent most of the 40 years in Idaho and so my family and I agreed beforehand that Idaho was a definite point of interest during our road trip. Having had a good night sleep, we woke up the next morning full of anticipation at the prospect of finally setting foot on some of the many spots in the States recognised as places of natural outstanding beauty. And so our adventure set off from Colorado Springs. Amongst various fascinating places where you could almost smell the dust and hardship of the old settlements, we came across a gem named “The Garden of the Gods”, a natural park filled with the most awe-inspiring and striking rock formations. It seems many of the native American tribes had a great spiritual connection to this place and it is easy to understand why. It is an incredibly dramatic landscape as it is unique. The beautifully red sculpturesque and monumental rock formations were not the only signs we encountered in the park, however. No sooner we got out of our car, this uncanny sign welcomed us:

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The image of a snake is full with symbolism and meaning for a Christian at any time, but context is everything and seeing that sign at that moment in time automatically brought it to life for me. I always look for meaning in things beyond the obvious and what easily appears to the naked eye, and so this translated for me as a gentle and ironic reminder that in life we tend to be safe, if we stay on the beaten track, but step out of it, and you will have to deal with those whose turf you are invading or threatening to bring change to. A lesson we all do well to learn in everyday living. I have to look no further than my own social media experience just prior to this trip. Everybody talks about the value of free speech and how wonderful democracy is, but dare to challenge the status quo, to go against what a fierce majority are saying about any particular subject and you might aswell have begged for World War 3 to start, because retaliation will come your way regardless of whether you deserve it or not.

I leave you for now with some images from the Garden of the Gods.

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SIGNS AND WONDERS ARE ALL AROUND US – PART 2

When you are a nervous flyer, you need all the help you can get: moral support, emotional reassurance, the odd reminder of how to breathe properly and even the more effective reminder that whether we fret or not, it is all in God’s hands anyway, so why waste energy worrying about what may or may not happen, right? Easier said than done, though. Phobias can be and often are totally irrational, but for those of us who suffer them, they are as real as the air that we breathe and often cause you to suffer in silence uncontrollably; they are as tangible as feeling your every heartbeat resonate so loud, strong and fast within your chest that your heart no longer feels like a heart, but instead a time-bomb which could explode at any moment; they are as evident as copious amounts of sweat running down the palms of your hands soaking whatever you touch. It certainly doesn’t improve things when you are surrounded by people who lack any kind of empathy or compassion and who put your phobias down as cowardice or a lack of courage, enhancing your already disproportionate sense of doom and gloom.

I always pray hard and often before boarding a plane, not just as I am sitting down in readiness for take off but on the days leading up to my departure. I pray that there is not much turbulence and that we have a safe and enjoyable flight. It is often said that when we pray, God does not answer our prayers so that we get what we asked for, but so that we get what we need to build up our character in order to fulfil our purpose during our journey on this earth. I have found this to be true, time and time again. There are however times when I strongly sense God sending me a life-line or some sort of encouragement to ease the fear of what I am about to embark on, literally.

On this occasion, that lifeline came in the form of Martin Freeman. Only God really knows the life-altering, redemptive and healing effect that The Crucible and Richard Armitage’s rendition of John Proctor had on me; only God really knows the deep and complex reasons why I feel my spirit is so akin to Richard’s; only God really knows the turmoil and heart-break I have gone through in these last few months as I have experienced first hand what it is to be hounded like an animal on social media for simply exercising my right to free speech and to expressing up-front my personal opinions with respect and honesty. Therefore, only God could have known how much was truly riding on this “holiday” and what would be the one and only occurrence which would put my fear of flying at bay; only God could have known how to take away my apprehension and replace it with ironic humour; how to put in front of me a sign that anyone else but me could have missed (indeed no one else but us queuing up to go through security, seemed to recognise Martin Freeman); only He could have been so attuned to me to give me the very timely and opportune reminder that though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for He is with me; his rod and his staff shall comfort me; He will never leave me, nor forsake me.

Think of all the actors in the world I could have bumped into at the airport; the very many days when I could have been at that specific terminal (compared to most I travel often and not just for pleasure but to visit relatives); the many hours in the day when flights take off; the many moments in a minute, minutes in an hour when I could have found myself in that exact queue right next to someone who is so emblematic of the very reasons why I was so desperate and in need of getting away at this point in my life. A miracle would have been to have Richard Armitage himself queuing up right behind me, but bearing in mind I was aware that he was in Vancouver or LA at the time, that turn of events would have been too obvious a choice of a miracle and not have required much faith on my part, would it?

To be continued in Part 3

SIGNS AND WONDERS ARE ALL AROUND US – Part 1

We have just completed an unforgettable and eventful three week road trip across a small section of the United States. We started in Denver, Colorado, and finished off in Seattle, Washington. Well, our exciting adventure really started from the moment we arrived at London Heathrow Airport.

For the first half of my life I saw God as this powerful, mean being who lied in wait expecting me to err at any moment, so that he could discipline me and send me back on the right path. Add another 23 years and life has taught me that yes it is wise and smart to have a good measure of fear of God, but that He also has an impeccable and timely sense of humour. He orchestrates moments and happenings in such a way that the joke remains only between you and Him, but when one of those moments takes place, you are left in no doubt as to who is behind it and on whom the joke is.

Let me put this into context. Seeing The Crucible with Richard Armitage at the Old Vic Theatre during the summer of 2014 was a pivotal moment in my life. It was an epiphany kind of day for me and its effects lasted for weeks and even months. In fact, nothing has been the same in my life since. Having said that, what started as a momentous occasion full of transcendence and spiritual meaning evolved into a bit of a providential obsession with Mr Armitage’s journey, well-being and growth from there on. Don’t ask me why, but I have felt an overwhelming sense of burden and concern for this man’s life and career for months. I guess only God has the answer to that one.

Anyway, so here I am at London Heathrow Airport dead excited about getting away from it all, specially from twitter, the world of Richard Armitage and the relentless claws of a handful of some of his very protective and “devoted” fans whose creepy behaviour on social media makes Francis Dolarhyde’s mental state appear pretty balanced and tame by comparison.

Sunglasses at the ready, open-toe sandals in place. Denver, here I come! I am so ready for a huge adventure at this point, for a time away from the hustle and bustle, a time of freedom, of soul-searching and reconnecting with myself and with the Creator. I am in a bubble and nothing and no one is going to burst it and send me back any time soon to the reality I am trying to escape from. EXCEPT THAT… as we are queuing to go through the Security Check and I am getting ready to grab a tray to put my personal effects on, lo and behold right behind me is none other than the one and only Hobbit, actor Martin Freeman and Richard Armitage’s co-star in the Hobbit films. So much for me beginning my detox from Mr Armitage and anything and everything remotely Armitagistic. Is there such a word? Well, I guess there is now.

To be continued in Part 2

THE DRAGON AND THE KNIGHT: WHOM SHALL YOU SERVE?

Some of my ramblings below as a result of turning on my tablet on the Google Search page with the following image on St. George’s Day, 23rd of April

St George's Day - 23rd April

St George’s Day – 23rd April

There is something wonderfully poignant, emblematic and foreboding in that image. It just struck me as I look at it more and more, how it reveals itself as a metaphor of Richard Armitage’s journey as an actor, indeed of the very journey we all humans embark on from the moment we are born: now the villain, then the hero; now the dragon, then the knight; now the psychopath, then the pilgrim; a life driven by the powers of hell as a result of the mental turmoil and deep scarring of wounds past or bad choices made by others, but then a holy journey of redemption or pilgrimage inspired and driven by nobility, honour and faith. And so our life goes on as Good and Evil rage within our soul in a fierce battle which never ends until one or the other is victorious, commands our spirit and claims our destiny.

I get the attraction, the appeal of wanting to be an actor. One gets to experience and live through all the things which we may be too scared or perhaps too sensible to not engage with in real life. Acting gives one the opportunity to love too much or love too little; to let our heart feel with abandon until it wants to explode but without really surrendering any part of ourselves in the process; to risk too much without risking anything; to find out what the consequences of a bad choice are without really paying the price; to choose evil instead of good without really entering into hell; to gain honour, fame and a place in history without really sacrificing every single thing that is dear to you in order to get there and claim your prize. That image of St George and the dragon is foreboding because in life many of us like to behave like actors and serve two masters, but the truth is nobody can live like that without paying the price. We can pretend this world is a stage and that we are all actors on it, but eventually we must all make the choice of whom shall we serve, whom shall we follow: the dragon or the knight?

FEEDING ON THE VERY EVILS WE CLAIM TO HATE IS LIKE TRYING TO CURE A CANCER WHILST WE GO ON SMOKING

PART 1

For those who read my blog regularly, you may recall some of the words I wrote on my post before last: “The Crucible, as recently rendered at The Old Vic Theatre in London, has released an unstoppable force spiritually, something which challenges the status quo and the complacency of a human race which right now sits pretty for the most part and in denial as the most abominable of evils, perils and injustices are happening all around us.”

In these last few months I have been basking in the glory and sheer joy I was engulfed by after seeing that play. I have been letting its message and unstoppable force get right through my bone and marrow, nourishing my soul in order to build up the courage to become another “John Proctor”, a light in that darkness which daily threatens civilisation with swallowing us all up. The Sleeping Giant was indeed awoken within me and as far as I was concerned, no one and nothing was going to put it to sleep again. My passion and zeal for truth, freedom and light have always been there, but lay dormant, anesthetized by the immediacy of obligations, responsibilities and daily worries. Try as I may, nothing and no one could wake me up from my slumber, my complacency and the all too accepted attitude of: “there are people out there who will do this much better than me, so why bother?. Let them take up the mantle of freedom, justice, compassion and truth. Let them put their all on the line. Nothing, no one could wake me up from my slumber, EXCEPT “The Crucible” and Richard Armitage’s portrayal of John Proctor.

Whether you are a spiritual person or not, whether you believe there is a God or not, hopefully you will relate in some measure to this statement: An epiphany took place that day at the Old Vic Theatre. My moral and social conscience went in asleep but it came out awake. My heart and soul were tepid for issues which make our society hang in the balance and which outcome may mean society is indeed hanging by a very fine and vulnerable thread. My heart and soul were lukewarm with regards to our world and humanity, but they were blazing like fire as I walked out of the theatre door. Even now, as I write this, tears fill my eyes. It was such a great feeling, so liberating, so empowering. It was crystal clear; every bone in my body felt that I had rightly followed prompts coming from an unknown dimension to be in that place, on that day, at that time. The jigsaw was finally complete. A sense of perfect fulfilment overcame me as I left the theatre that night.

It has now been 5 months since I first saw The Crucible, and so much has happened since then. There have been so many news items which directly relate to the issues touched on by the characters and the plot of this play. Over this period of time, I have been following Richard Armitage closely, too closely many will say (myself included), but I have grown incredibly fond of this man who not only is a great actor with amazing potential, but also comes across as a well-rounded super smart human being who has in abundance all the qualities which I hope to one day display effortlessly and naturally. I feel very akin to him. From what he has said on numerous interviews and on social media, he seems to be one of those people that when you peel off all the layers and go real deep, there is a solid, stoic foundation, a force that drives him, a purpose and nothing, no one will deter him from it. I may be talking absolute nonsense, but the fact that he has managed to pile up 103K followers on Twitter since he joined in August, and the rate it is going up at, 1000 per day right now, tells me there is something about this individual which draws people to him. Yeah, I know: “Well, of course there is”, you say, “he is the hottest thing around since….since…well…err… the hottest thing around!” Of course I agree, but looks fade and unless there is some underlying substance, no one is going to get very far on just sex appeal, not even him.

Besides the obvious physical and charismatic appeal that Richard has, there is something very earthy, very tangible, an authenticity, an assertiveness and an organic Goodness about him which makes thousands of us wait by “his side”, stick around, as he gives off the feeling that any day, any moment now he is going to do something utterly memorable, catalytic, life-altering, world-shaping, history-making . He carries this magnetic aura about him and it is impossible not to notice it. Ironically, for me it is not Richard Armitage playing Thorin Oakenshield or John Proctor and immersing himself in these characters, but it is the characters who breathe their first breath, owe their life and grow thanks to the qualities inherent in Richard and not the other way around.

When interviewed in the summer having finished the play, Richard said that in a way, John Proctor, has always been a part of him, has always been in him. I agree and I would add that he still is. I think that regardless of how good an actor you are, you can’t just finish the run of a play or a film, and shake off the character that in this case you have immersed yourself in, heart and soul, for quite a while, just as it is humanly impossible to shake off a person who has been an intricate part of your life for a considerable amount of time, whether you part in good terms or bad, they are a chapter in your life and you will inevitably carry them with you for the rest of your days; the experiences you shared will shape your experiences in the future and HOPEFULLY, the lessons you learnt whilst sharing your life with that person/character will also shape the life you lead from there on, the message that your life, your journey and your trajectory give off to the rest of the on looking, expectant world, a world so hungry for goodness, mercy, redemption, freedom, equality, light……for LOVE, right? WRONG!

To be continued in Part 2