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Food For Thought

Several years ago I wrote about four words for happiness. Those words were Love, Learn, Share and Play, and I consider them all to be necessary in order to be happy. We have to make time for each in our busy lives, and we never reach a point where we are ‘done’ with any of them. For a long time, I thought that the element of creativity was inherent in most of those four concepts. It seems I may have been mistaken. Since that time I’ve observed a number of cases where people who include those four things in their lives still seem to feel something is missing. I may be wrong, but according to my observations, I suspect that missing thing is creativity. So I amend my list and add the word Create.
I may have missed this because nearly all my friends and associates are writers or artists, or both– so I don’t actually know a whole lot of uncreative people.
It appears that the urge to create something is basic to human nature– or maybe to all mammals. I remember reading somewhere that all mammals have several things in common. These are the facts: they grow hair, give live birth, suckle their young, dream and invent. It’s the fact that we dream that makes me believe we need to create things. For what is creation other than following through with an idea or a visios– bringing something from a dream to a fact? Invention is often brought about by necessity– true– but there are too many things that have been invented, not from necessity, but simply because they had never existed before and someone had a dream. That is creating, simply for its own sake.
If you’ve ever owned a cat, you have no doubt witnessed those unexplainable bursts of energy, when your pet suddenly leaps up, runs wildly about in pursuit or in battle with some imaginary enemy or prey. No doubt you’ve wondered if cats can see things we can’t see or if it’s a reaction to a dream (or a nightmare)? It’s hard to know if a cat is sleeping or merely in a state of deep concentration, not unlike meditation. What if your cat is not cat-napping but composing a scenario for an adventure in which he is the star actor, and that sudden burst of activity is the opening night performance, so to speak? If you don’t care to be quite that fanciful, then just think of it as a type of play– play that is based on your cat’s imaginings. Creating.
Cats and dogs, among other animals, dream about such things as defending themselves or their territory, stalking, hiding, searching for food– things that are essential aspects of their natural lives. We dream and invent things that are related to the essentials of our own lives too– but we go further than that (I think) when we create things for their own sake– things like art, music, poetry, of course, but those may actually be essentials as much as food, shelter, and safety.
What about recipes? Creative cooks are always coming up with new ways to prepare food, yet the foods are there and we have been eating them all along, so why do we need another way to cook them? Maybe you could call it boredom but I think it has more to do with the idea of making something new, something that has never existed before.
What about our homes? We need shelter, that’s a given, but we’ve come a long way from tree-tops and caves. Everything from architecture, fabrics, furniture design, cooking utensils, bathroom fixtures– it is all constantly changing, being updated, and “improved.” How is it an improvement to print blue geese on a paper towel? Does it make it more of a towel? More absorbent? Stronger? More attractive? (Not in my opinion.) The only reason I can come up with is that it makes it different. Again, for the relief of boredom. An attempt to make something different that never existed before.
There are new models of nearly everything on the market each year: automobiles, coffeemakers, jogging shoes, backpacks, baby strollers, neckties, bird feeders– you name it. Are these necessarily improvements? No. Mostly, they are simply different from what already exists. And we tend to want those things for no other reason than that they are different, which we somehow equate with better even if they aren’t. I’ve concluded it is a basic human need, whether you call it creativity, progress, variety, boredom, or restlessness, we seem to need to keep making things that never existed before. Even if creativity were not one of the essentials in itself, it has the ability to greatly enhance each and all of the other four. So try creating something– doilies or donuts, poems or paper plates, toys or toilet seat covers, stories or soap dishes, whistles or whatever. You’ll be happier if you Love, Learn, Share, Play, and Create.