Creativity Vs. Destruction

I was supposed to start my “Examining The Creative Mind” series today. Molly Field was going to enlighten us about her creative process by answering some interview questions I had sent her. She asked me to postpone publishing her contribution due to the Boston Marathon bombing. She wanted to observe a day of silence if she wasn’t going to be writing about what happened. I will publish her interview on Thursday instead.

I’ve struggled about what to say about this new violent incident, mostly because I haven’t recovered from the previous violent incidents yet. They are happening so often now. It scares me and it makes me sad and angry at the same time. I know many people are going through similar emotions. I am not sure I have anything new to add to the conversation or anything important to say. Just being silent felt like the best option, or at least the only option with any value. I know many other bloggers will be expressing their opinions and feelings about what has happened with a grace I don’t seem to possess today. I do feel compelled to say something that has been bothering me for a while now.

Last night I kept thinking about this class I took in my Master’s program. It was called The Psychology of Spirituality. It was an online class. There was only one other student in the class, his name was John and he was a philosophy professor. I knew him in real life too. We had a mutual friend and would often bump into each other at our mutual friends parties. We would get into huge philosophical debates and drink way too much beer as our arguments escalated into good-natured attempts at one-upmanship. Anyway, this class was the perfect forum for us to continue our debates and we were prolific in our writing. We were so involved in the class that I am sure it seemed like more than two people were contributing to class assignments. We argued about spirituality, “God”, and human nature.

In one section, near the beginning, we began what became a class long discussion on evil and destruction. As a psychology student, I truly believed that evil did not exist exactly and that most people were inherently good and striving for positivity. I believed, that people were evolving, that we were moving towards greater consciousness and goodness. My perspective was very humanistic in nature which was no doubt the result of my counseling classes and the influence of Carl Rogers. John, on the other hand was adamant that evil and destruction were necessary for life to continue and that evil was really a matter of perspective anyway. I just want to stop right here and say, arguing with a philosophy professor is a fool’s errand. Philosopher’s are trained to argue using logic. They are usually incredibly intelligent people. They have learned to think. John was smart and his arguments were solid. Look to nature he told me.

John informed me of many examples. Destruction is as much a part of life as creation is, he argued passionately. A forest fire clears out the dead wood so new growth can emerge. A Lioness catches her pray and feeds it to her cubs. This is destructive and evil behavior, isn’t it? Yet, it is also part of life. Without this destructive evil, life might not exist at all. John scoffed at my appeals for peace and growth towards a more loving and empathic society. He directed me to read The Birth of Tragedy by Friedrich Nietzsche. He told me we all were trying to gain power and dominance over each other. That what looks like destruction to one person is creation to another. That a mad man with a gun who shoots a bunch of people is just becoming more of who he is, embracing his will to power, and that his act is one of creation from his perspective. The major point was that real death was what happens when we lose the will to power.

All of John’s arguments make sense on paper and in the comfortable seat of a philosophy class, or even at a party where two people are feeling smart for arguing about existentialism and contemplating what it means to be human. Ideas and theories can be thought about in the abstract, but they don’t always make as much sense in your real life. These arguments feel more like excuses when you think about children being killed and people being murdered in a movie theater, or when you read about children being raped and killed by adults.

While I was in the Psychology of Spirituality class I eventually conceded the argument even though it never sat quite right with me. At the time I just couldn’t come up with an argument as clever as his was to refute his points. I mean, he had Nietzsche in his corner. All I really had, was a bad feeling in the pit of my stomach.

I willingly agree that some destruction is needed for creation. We will tear down a building to erect a new one. We will likely run print media out of business with the Internet and technology we are inventing. Men wearing helmets and team jerseys will break each others bodies in order to win a football game. Destruction and creation are two sides of the same coin. Humans do have a will to power and to dominate. I spend time trying to gain power by writing this blog. I have the urge to paint something that will move people or improve my financial status. It’s true. I dig in the earth and uproot weeds so I can grow my tomato and squash plants. I steal my chickens eggs and eat them. I create and destroy daily. I am Shiva. We all are. At least, that is how it seems.

I thought about this yesterday while I was in my garden, avoiding the news coverage because I couldn’t handle the images and the pain resulting from the Boston Marathon bombing. I thought about all of the people I know who spend most of their days creating something. They go to work, they make food, they exercise their dogs, they paint, they have children, they volunteer to help people less fortunate than they are, they write compelling articles trying to change the hearts and minds of the people at large. They create life. Most of the people I know are destructive on accident or as a by-product of trying to do something good. They contribute to pollution by driving to work so they can earn enough money to buy food for their family (food that is likely a product of some other types of destruction). None of us can escape the circle of creation and destruction, this is true. I see it with my own eyes.

So, why does the argument bother me in the pit of my stomach so much? I don’t have an articulate answer to give you. I just look at these violent incidents and wonder where is the will to power exactly? Where is this kind of destruction making room for new creativity? The destruction seems useless. A man shoots a room full of people and then kills himself. I find no perspective that explains how this type of dominance and destruction results in anything beneficial for the murderer. I’ve never been a big believer in the idea of good and evil from a religious perspective, but I think destruction for no purpose is probably the real definition of evil. A lioness kills a zebra and eats it. She doesn’t kill it without purpose or benefit. A forest fire results in new, healthier growth. How does killing a bunch of people and then killing oneself benefit anyone involved?

These acts of violence in our country are just death. There isn’t any redeeming value in the act. Bombing a marathon doesn’t serve any higher purpose either. It just breaks people. It tears their limbs, it breaks their hearts, but there really isn’t anyway to see it as a creative act, is there? Sure, there will be stricter rules and more police, and maybe dogs sniffing for bombs in public activities like this for a while, but is that really creating something? Does new growth come from these acts of destruction? Some will point to the parents of Newtown who are working so hard to change the gun laws in our country as an example of creation as a result of destruction. They might be right, but I am compelled to say the person who causes this destruction is absent from the creative process all together. The victims are creating meaning for the death of their loved one and working hard to change things for the better. They are turning destruction into creation, but I would argue they were probably doing that already in their lives. I wonder, would this mean that some people are only destructive? It’s seems impossible to be creative without destruction, but is it possible to be destructive without creating? Would that be the definition of evil? Is evil necessary?

I am not really a philosopher. I don’t have a logical mind. Anyone who has taken a math class with me can vouch for that. I often make decisions on a gut feeling. My body recognizes patterns and incongruities much faster than my mind does. I operate at an intuitive level. So, here I am, years later, still mulling over an argument I had with a philosophy professor. I am still unable to formulate an opinion in a philosophical, logical way. All I have is that nagging feeling in my stomach that something about this argument doesn’t make sense to me. I’m not religious, but I think of myself as spiritual. I still operate under the fundamental belief that most people do things for some kind of greater good and that as a whole, the human species is evolving into one with greater compassion, empathy and responsibility toward life. I still believe that real power does not come from physical violence and domination, but from a place of love and grace. I just haven’t really found a way to reconcile these beliefs with all of the bad things that happen in the world. I can’t decide if these people are really evil. I can’t decide if these acts contribute to the creation and development of humanity, but my gut says they don’t.

32 thoughts on “Creativity Vs. Destruction”

  1. These are big thoughts – much bigger than mere logic can explain. Much bigger, I think, than our mortal minds can fully grasp, but I think the struggle to understand helps us grow, so I’m glad you didn’t remain silent.

    I completely agree with this: “I still believe that real power does not come from physical violence and domination, but from a place of love and grace.” I call that place God.

  2. You are wrong saying that you are “unable to formulate an opinion in a philosophical, logical way”. If this post is not formulated in a philosophical, logical way then what is? I just think that as an artist and therefore a person more sensitive than the majority of people you put way more emotions into philosophy than so-called philosophers. But that’s human, and that’s what makes it easier to understand, to grasp, to think about it over and over again…Thank you for that.
    And having Nietzsche in his corner he should allow you to invite at least Kant (my fave philosopher btw, maybe because he was born in former Poland or maybe because he is German or maybe just because that’s my categorical imperative:) ) or Leibnitz…if not, that was just an unfair game! 🙂

      1. Hm, I was sure Americans loved Freud. I took one philosophy course a few years back but now when I feel like thinking in philosophical way again I read “Sophie’s world”. Do you know it?

        1. Yes, American’s love Freud too, but the put him under the category of psychology more than philosophy, which, come to think of it, seems a little strange too. I have not read “Sophie’s World”. Should I? Was it really good?

          1. Well, it was a bit too messed up for me at times but overall it is a good book and explains some of the philosophical questions really well. I think you would like it!

  3. I’ve always believed that everything balances out. Without darkness, we wouldn’t know light…and of course the other way around. Maybe because most of humanity is pretty decent, we have an occasional destructive force that does unspeakable acts for no reason that we can comprehend. They seem than more than occasional lately but there’s a huge population on the earth and I still think that those that are really that awful are in the minority.

    I see patterns through Facebook and there are some individuals that no matter how they keep doing destructive things to their own lives, they don’t see it that way and like to lay blame on anything and everyone else. It’s a matter of perspective.

    So, seeing these terrible events, I can only assume that those people that decide to hurt large amounts of fellow humans have the perspective that they are doing good, or perhaps the only thing, for their cause. You and I and the people we befriend will never be able to have that perspective, or understand how anyone else can.

    I’m not in any way trying to justify any harmful act…. it’s awful and I’m terribly sad for those involved…… but I just think that most good folk are unable to understand why, or how anything like this can take place while the not so good folk may have reasons and cannot understand our perspective on why not to.

    1. jen, i love this comment of yours and i must say that agree 100%. blaming other’s is so cowardly, especially when one has not taken into account what they themselves have contributed to the situation. at the end of the day,are we not all to blame? is the entire world not in crisis? how many people must die, be hurt, be raped, before someone throws a white flag up?

      1. Thank you for leaving a comment. I do wonder about why our society seems to be producing so many violent people. I also wonder if there is something we could do that would help prevent people from engaging in these acts. I have a few theories, but none substantial enough to even mention here.

    2. I think you and my friend John share similar points of view when it comes to life in general. I don’t think he would find these incidents of violence as justifiable in any way either.

      Thank you for leaving such a thoughtful comment!

  4. No, it shows that those of us that live in a free society are vulnerable to those who would eagerly destroy our way of life. Frankly, I don’t care what the terrorists rational is; they should be dealt with harshly and promptly. This was an Evil act. I am truly sorrowful for the suffering it has generated. 🙁

    1. Unfortunately, all people all vulnerable all the time. We just forget about it until something like this happens.

      I am sad for the suffering it has generated too.

  5. Once I started reading this post, I couldn’t stop. As much as you say, you are not philosophical, I follow your logic quite well. I accept that in life there must be bad or else we will not know good and there must be sadness so we can know joy, but it still royally sucks that it is that way. I love many of your lines, but one of my favorites is “destruction for no purpose is probably the real definition of evil.” I think that’s true. Out of all the Boston marathon posts I’ve read, this one speaks most closely to my heart. To me, it is unfathomable how any of this can be seen as a positive force. It is just hurtful and heartbreaking. Thank you for delving so deeply into this topic and sharing your thoughts with us all. I’m grateful to you for writing this.

    1. “Destruction for no purpose?” Not so sure about that one. Narcissistic rage seems to be to be a better explanation of the mind state of the perp(s) that pulled off this evil act. Remember, the explosive devise was designed to wound and terrorize as many innocent people as possible. But I’m sure the defense team will claim that this person(s) suffered from ‘child abuse’ when they are arrested and tried. Hopefully, this person(s) will be hunted down and filled full of lead trying to resist 🙁

      1. I think people process and react to these in horrors in different ways, probably based on our past experiences, cultures, and possibly our educations. I can certainly understand your desire for revenge, Wayne. Just the idea of someone physically hurting my daughter puts me on the brink of murderous rage. The things is, from a historical perspective, violence only seems to cause more violence. I’m not sure another violent act is the best solution.

        1. Have to think about that. I think when you say always you are on shaky ground. Reagan knew this when he dispatched USAF jets to Libya after the Lockerbie incident that crashed a passenger jet that Gadaffi admitted Libya was responsible for. Things quieted down for quite a while after the bombing. Weakness in the face of terrorism can be a big mistake.

          1. I’m good with my always on this. My point is, we could die at any moment. We have no idea what is going to happen. There are car accidents, slips in tubs, heck, I electrocuted myself earlier today. Under different circumstances I might not be typing this right now. I think these shootings, knifings and bombings remind us of our own mortality and of the mortality of the people we love.

  6. Lily, a small point. You didn’t electrocute yourself. You shocked yourself 😉 If you had electrocuted yourself you wouldn’t be writing this blog or doing anything else. Did you do it with the aquarium?

  7. Excellent post… I can follow your arguments and can relate to them. It´s true that there is a link between destruction and creation, this is indeed the cycle of life. But there is a kind of destruction that comes from indiference to life (comes from fanatism or from egotism, from the idea that world -persons, society, nature, relationships…- should be as we want it to be and not as it is)

    This sort of destruction doesn´t generate anything good but suffering. As you said those who suffers it can end up being creative, this is the power of pain, through conciousness, but this doesn´t justify destruction of this type… as you wrote: I think destruction for no purpose is probably the real definition of evil

    Thanks for sharing

    1. This line strikes such a chord with me …the idea that world -persons, society, nature, relationships…- should be as we want it to be and not as it is…. I see this as possibly the center of most of our societal problems.

      Thank you for leaving such a thoughtful and interesting comment!

  8. Somebody said “Don’t push the river.” The river is going to go where it wants to. When you try and make everything safe, it’s a fruitless task. Government and new laws certainly aren’t going to do it for you. This may be obvious but some people just don’t get it.

    1. I would disagree with part of your conclusion. Some laws do help save lives. I would say look at seat belt laws. Since they have been enforced more people have survived car crashes. Some people still don’t wear them and pay the price, sure, but overall the law has saved many lives. Sometimes a little prevention can go a long way.

      Not sure why, but this reminded me of something I read today. Maybe you will find it interesting too: Parenting: The Dangers and Influences of Elitisim.

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