Thursday, September 20, 2012

creating jokes and clean streets


I picked up Paul's Johnson's book Creators the other day and am enjoying it three years after my first encounter. This is from the opening page:

Creativity, I believe, is inherent in all of us. We are the progeny of almighty God.... He created the universe, and those who inhabit it; and, in creating us, he made us in his own image, so that his personality and capacities, however feebly, are reflected in our minds, bodies, and immortal spirits. So we are, by our nature, creators as well. All of us can, and most of us do, create in one way or another. We are undoubtedly at our happiest when creating, however humbly and inconspicuously. 

Johnson mentions some of the many creations humans produce, such as written works, farms, and businesses. Some of these wonderful works are not lasting, though they are valuable for as short as a season or as long as centuries.

Some forms of creativity, no less important, are immaterial as well as transient. One of the most important is to make people laugh. We live in a vale of tears, which begins with the crying of a babe and does not become any less doleful as we age. Humor, which lifts our spirits for a spell, is one of the most valuable of human solaces, and the gift of inciting it rare and inestimable. Whoever makes a new joke, which circulates, translates, globalizes itself, and lives on through generations, perhaps millennia, is a creative genius, and a benefactor of humankind almost without compare.

I transcribed the above about jokes because that form of creativity is worlds removed from anything I can imagine drumming up. I am fascinated by the art of making or even telling jokes; the chapter in Annie Dillard's An American Childhood in which she relates how her parents worked their art of joke-telling describes an exotic land to which I could never go.

I'm more familiar -- quite familiar -- with the type of art Johnson also appreciates in this account:

I sometimes talk to a jovial sweeper, who does my street, and who comes from Isfahan, in Persia, wherein lies the grandest and most beautiful square in the world, the work of many architects and craftsmen over centuries, but chiefly of the sixteenth. I asked him if he felt himself creative, and he said, "Oh, yes. Each day they give me a dirty street, and I make it into a clean one, thanks be to God."

10 comments:

M.K. said...

What a thought-provoking post, GJ! I like the street-sweeper's observation. I've never thought of things like that as "creative," but indeed, to clean a kitchen is to do much the same thing. I liked sewing b/c it gave such quick results: a new dress in a day! To transform a flat panel of fabric into a 3-dimensional garment that shapes a particular body -- that's creating! In writing, I like creating new worlds, new people, new events. Creating ideas. Perhaps having babies is the most creative thing of all b/c we are making one of the few eternal things -- a human soul.

magsmcc said...

I'm calling Prince Charming in to read this post now- he is doing one of his lay preacher sermons on Sunday morning, and this is exactly his theme! How did you know?!

Celeste said...

I love this...a celebration! If we are made in the image of, then we are all creators. Thank you, my friend.

Sara said...

I love the Persian street sweeper's attitude! I'd like that to be my attitude as well.

I hear you about joke telling not being of your world; it is not of mine either. I can enjoy a good joke but don't have the talent to tell one.

This sounds like a book with lots of nuggets to make one think.

Anita said...

I haven't read this book, but will definitely put it on my list. I am not good at telling jokes, but I love to surprise people with my quirky sense of humor.
Great post!

Thistle Cove Farm said...

The street sweeper is a wise man!

Gumbo Lily said...

It's all in the attitude! Great post.

Pom Pom said...

Well, that explains the feeling of holy joy that comes from a good scrub of the kitchen!

debbie bailey said...

Oh, no! Another creativity book for me to read. You know I'll have to get it. The street sweeper reminds me of Brother Lawrence working in the kitchen peeling potatoes for the glory of God in The Practice of the Presence of God. Great book!

All children are budding artists at five, but by the time they've gone through the educational system, very few of them still create. So sad.

I'm glad to see so many books on creativity. I think it's time we, as a people, became creative again and reclaimed our birthright.

Good post, GJ.

Lorrie Orr said...

When I look at the diversity and beauty of the natural world I am amazed at God's creativity. And to think that I am gifted with a small part of that is astounding to me. How often we denigrate the gifts we have been given.

I love the idea of telling a joke as creative. It is so true that laughter is in short supply, but it is a medicine, as the Proverbs say.

Wonderful, thought-provoking post.