“The truly creative mind in any field is no more than this: A human creature born abnormally, inhumanly sensitive. To him… a touch is a blow, a sound is a noise, a misfortune is a tragedy, a joy is an ecstasy, a friend is a lover, a lover is a god, and failure is death. Add to this cruelly delicate organism the overpowering necessity to create, create, create — so that without the creating of music or poetry or books or buildings or something of meaning, his very breath is cut off from him. He must create, must pour out creation. By some strange, unknown, inward urgency he is not really alive unless he is creating.”
–Pearl S. Buck, novelist, Nobel laureate (1892-1973)
I do believe there is some mysterious inward drive that makes a human being want to create. But I also think that everyone has that drive to some degree. Unfortunately, not everyone has learned how to channel it. I’m thinking specifically of groups who may experience feelings of alienation from society at large: Adolescents, prison inmates, the mentally ill.
Some get so frustrated that they choose destruction rather than creation. And yet, what is destruction, really, but another aspect of creation? It is the act of creating nothing out of something. Given no other outlets, the creative impulse may take this form. Which is why art programs are so valuable in public schools, prisons, mental institutions and even summer camps.
I have witnessed a young child, previously withdrawn and frustrated, find greater motivation to apply himself when he has been given the tools and the freedom of creative expression. I have seen an 85 year-old woman cry tears of joy when a group of people told her that the poetry she has been secretly writing all her life is wonderful. I have seen the surly, rebellious teenager’s eyes light up when he realizes that what he has made with his own two hands is good and has meaning.
Passing the creative spark to another human being is a beautiful, magical moment.
It is an act of communion.
And art is not a luxury. It is not expendable, not something we can “do without.” Art is an essential part of being human.