The Sarabite: Towards an Aesthetic Christianity

There is a continuous attraction, beginning with God, going to the world, and ending at last with God, an attraction which returns to the same place where it began as though in a kind of circle. -Marsilio Ficino

Thursday, June 14, 2007

On Creativity

When Balanchine and Stravinsky got together, there was generally much merriment... a good deal of matter-of-fact, detailed discussion of such technical aspects of of music and the dance as they happened to be concerned with at the time; and very little theorizing about art. Both men shunned the romantic conception of the soulful artist creating his masterpieces out of agony and ecstasy. Rather, they prided themselves on being disciplined craftsmen, able to apply themselves to a job of work and produce it in good fashion and on time. They made their share of masterpieces, but they never admitted, when they were working on a ballet, that they thought of it anymore than the task at hand. "If you set out to make a masterpiece, how will you ever get finished?" Balanchine once said. From Stravinsky, Balanchine said, he learned the trait of being satisfied with what he had made, once it was done. Stravinsky used to say his own model for this attitude was God, who on the days that he created lovely flowers and trees and the birds of the heavens was satisfied, and who was also just as satisfied on the day he created sprawling insects and slimy reptiles.

"If I were feeling suicidal," [Balanchine] remarked at one time, "I would never try to express this in a ballet. I would make as beautiful a variation as I could for a ballerina, and then- well, then I'd go and kill myself."

-from Bernard Taper's Balanchine: A Biography

We could learn a lot about creativity from these two quotes. Indeed, we can most definitely say that anything we do in life is above us and ultimately from God. There is little room for us to manipulate according to our own fancies and still make something beautiful. The beautiful sustains us, but in the end it is above us. It is not ours.


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