It is an awe-inspiring thing to be created in the image of God. People forget the responsibility that puts on them. Because God is a creator. If we are created in God’s image, then it is incumbent upon us to create. We are, by that act of being, creators. We create with every breath we take. If we aren’t careful, however, what we create won’t be fit to be sold in a government-issue store in a communist country. It will be dull, colourless, badly stitched together and ill-fitting. When we review our years as part of the Yommim Noraim, one of the things to do is note the badly made things we have created and get rid of them. Another thing to do is to plan this year’s creations.
That’s right – plan. Because it’s easy to create garbage. Peel a banana and there you have it – a banana peel, done. But to create something worthy of being in God’s image, that takes planning, it takes determination, it takes creativity, and it takes love. Without planning, it won’t be possible. You know the saying, “the devil is in the details?” Picture him there – waiting to drag you down with him, tempting you to waste time and do things that are not creative in any way. So, I plan what I want to have next year. As part of that, I celebrate this year’s creations.
I taught full time all year. Yes, that’s a creation – all those students who know math better, who like math better and more importantly, who know that cheating gets caught, that prioritising work leads to success, that they have ability, that they can’t ride on that ability but need to work – that is a beautiful creation, and I played a part in it. A family who love each other, who grow together, who learn from each other – and who think that being Jewish is fun. That’s my creation too. I’m not the only one on this creative team, but at least I played a small part. I wrote a lot. I blogged Elul, I counted the Omer, and I prepared tons of interesting, creative materials for math classes. Although most of my writing is a bit cheesy, repetitive and mediocre, occasionally, I write good stuff and I’m proud of what I write. So, this year, I will continue to create in the areas of family, teaching, writing. What else?
Fighting for a better world? Maybe – that could be a neat creation. Increasing connections with friends? Improving the appearance of my surroundings? (I don’t HAVE to be a slob, right?) These are all things I could create this year. These are all goals around which I could make plans. And once I’m done the planning, I’m just started. It’s going to take a lot of determination for me to continue. I’m a procrastinator and little things take me forever. I’m going to want to quit. Anything that could distract me probably will. For instance, I have decided that there will be 29 Blog Elul posts this year. It was NOT easy to get my butt in this chair to write this one.
I need creativity to do the things I do – and creativity hurts, because it means I am invested in the work I do. I want – no, I need it to reflect my emotions. Which means I pick at emotional scars every time I sit down to write, I prod at relationships to see which bit hurts – and then I use that bit to write from, because it is the one that will add the colour and texture and make sure I’m not producing boring material. I know many people say you’re either creative or you’re not. I disagree. We are all created in God’s image. We are all creative. You are either willing to face the pain or you’re not. If you’re coming from a place of shame and embarrassment, you won’t be and you’ll find that the words don’t come, the paint won’t flow, the conversation will end abruptly as you walk away from those you should be with, and you will be completely unable to create.
And that’s where the love must come in, because if I don’t love it, I won’t do it – or I’ll do it mechanically, keeping my self insulated from it. I love what I do – and I’ve tried doing stuff I don’t love, and I’m so good at faking it that lots of people thought it was good creative work. I knew however, and God knew that it was just nicely painted garbage, and not worthy of being seen, especially during the High Holy Days.
So, to create is …well, here is an image. To create, plan to build a fire. Get the supplies and build it hot. Now stick your hands in it. Yes it’s supposed to hurt, that’s the creativity. Use determination and love to keep your hands in the flames. No, you don’t get burned up in this fire. Instead you pull out something incredible, whose beauty reminds you that you were made in God’s image with the power of creation.
I’ve been thinking about creation quite a bit, because there’s this blog, and I’ve been writing, and writing is a form of creation, so I’ve been creating stories and essays. That makes me a creator, I guess. Oh, not like God. Who created the whole universe in 7 days. As opposed to me, who takes 7 days to create a math worksheet. God does it better, you know? Still, I create. I make new things that weren’t there before exist. I bring them into the universe and change the fabric of the world around me just the teeniest bit with my writing.
I think it’s amazing, really, that we have the power to create. We take the most simple things – little sounds made by striking things on other things, marks left by one material on another, strings that tie up together – and we turn them into music, painting, writing, weaving, sewing, and so on. We seem driven to do this, to put the Lego pieces of the universe together. Each time we do, we transform the universe.
It took me a while to realize what I could create. It’s not always obvious. For a long time, I figured that I was simply not creative. I always did better in the maths than in the arts after all. I was a left-brain (that’s how science used to describe things as I grew up,) analytical, systematic sort of person, and while I could construct following a set of instructions, I couldn’t create. Over time, however, I saw tons of ways in which I could and did act creatively, and wondered how I could have missed it.
First, even the most basic tasks are tiny creations – when I clean, I create order out of chaos, beauty out of mess. Then, something properly constructed according to plan *is* a creation – it takes skill to put it together and makes me a collaborator with the person who made the plan. So, when I cross-stitch, put a math formula together, play a board game – these are creative activities too. I also create with words. It looks like my brain has both halves after all, because I can certainly put words together to present ideas. Finally, I create with people. I build friendship and family, relationships and loving connections. That’s part of the point of my writing, and anything else that I do too.
It’s a big responsibility. Oh, I realize I’m writing primarily for myself. My readership is 6 people and a dog (and that guy in Spain – I don’t know who you are, but keep reading; you make my stats page more interesting). Nevertheless, I made a commitment to those people that I would create – and so I must, and must attempt to do a decent job.
Sometimes, I don’t. I fritter away that ability to create. Instead of putting words together to make a beautiful new part of the universe, I consume – I sit back, and enjoy other people’s creations, not as an active participant but as a passive receiver. It’s tempting, because it’s easier. There’s no responsibility, no chance of doing a lousy job, no chance of disappointing those who are expecting my creation to be good. It’s a trap, though, because I do have that responsibility, and when I just consume, I am automatically failing at what I’m supposed to be doing; I’m automatically disappointing those expecting more from me.
The only way out of that trap is to accept the mantle of a creator, and to realize that the point isn’t to do it perfectly, it’s just to do. Flowers and people aren’t perfectly symmetrical – they have differences and blemishes, and we appreciate that. If God can get away with being an imperfect creator – well, so can I. I don’t need to just be another consumer; the world has enough of those. Together, God and I, we will continue to create and transform the universe for the better.