November 23, 2010

Thankfulness, Part 2

There is a definite link between thankfulness and the ability to create art.

There’s also a link between emotional trauma and the need to create art, but that’s something else ~ not quite the opposite of thankfulness but also contributing to the mix.

Being thankful makes you focus on the positive not the negative. It makes you see the glass as half full, not half empty. I would imagine that’s one of the reasons why some religions have us count our blessings. It leads to more satisfaction in life.

Of course, consumerism works in the opposite direction, trying to make us needy, afraid, and wanting. Maybe the rise of consumerism and the lessening of the power of religion (from, for example, the Middle Ages, where it permeated our society to the core) has taken a huge toll on our spirit of thankfulness.

This sense of thankfulness leads to a sense of abundance. It’s related the ideas in Abraham Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, which basically says that you need your basic needs of water, shelter, security, love, etc., fulfilled before you can aspire to make great art or focus on big ideas, before you can realize your full potential.

If you think of this in the opposite, it definitely makes sense, and it certainly bears itself out in my family (though you can definitely see the tension between scrabbling for a living and the need to make art to get over emotional trauma). Generally, if you’re worried about whether you’re going to lose your house and where your next meal is coming from, you could care less whether you can draw a pretty picture or not.

I think of William Wordsworth’s idea of emotions recollected in tranquility. He defined poetry as "the spontaneous overflow of powerful feelings: it takes its origin from emotion recollected in tranquility." Wordworth idolized childhood as a perfect state of being, and he thought of adulthood as a fall from grace. So, much of his poetry dealt with exploring the strong emotions he had as a child from the tranquil state of adulthood. This gets at the tension between the need to create art to deal with emotion and also the need to have tranquility ~ thankfulness, a room of one’s own, so to speak (to horribly mix my references) ~ in order to create.

If we are consumed with the opposite of thankfulness ~ miserly greed, cynicism, jealousy, hate ~ we are not focused on empathy, which is I think is vital to creating. If we are creating for revenge or “to show them,” rather than to understand and to get at the personal truth of something, the art comes from the wrong place and is a stunted thing, if we are able to create at all.

Julia Cameron talks a lot about this in her book The Artist’s Way. She talks about crazymakers, people who are thwarted creatives who are bent on destroying the creative people around them. She talks about how you need to have an artist’s date once a week, a time where you bring out your inner kid to play, which gives you a sense of abundance.

As I talk about this, I realize that I need to focus more on having a sense of thankfulness and abundance in my life year-round. I think I’m generally an optimist, but it’s easy to get wrapped up in the day-to-day grind of life, to focus on the gottas and have-tos and why-mes. So, I think I’ll do that. Every morning when I look in the mirror, I’m going to count my blessings, the things I’m thankful for.

Questions of the Day: How do you keep a sense of abundance in your life? How do you pull yourself up when you’re in that downward spiral?


February Grace said...

My random writing idea notebook, for most of the past year, has been a little hardcover journal that has the word "Gratitude" on the bright orange cover, and quotes inside on the subject.

I keep the little loose notes I invariably stuff inside it from falling out by securing the book shut with an inexpensive little elastic bracelet I found one day at a touristy shop during a day trip- which has a little silver charm on it that says "courage".

Gratitude, and courage, seem to me to be the two things I need most to be able to write as I want to. Or to paint or sing for that matter.

You seem to have both in abundance-gratitude and courage- and it's a pleasure and gift to see it. Thank you for showing your heart.

Wishing you a Happy Thanksgiving!


Tamara said...

Thank you so much, February Grace, for stopping by!

I love that idea for the writing journal. Gratitude and courage - definitely!

From what I read, it sounds like your like me in that it's easier for you to write fiction than nonfiction/memoir. What are you working on? For me, memoir would take a lot more courage (for some reason). Have you seen the Rumpus intervews with writers braver than I?

Thank you so much for your kind words! It's so good to get to know you! Happy Holidays!

~ Tamara