Creative Recharging

Everyday we are surrounded by a gaggle of people who want a little piece of us: our kids, our spouse, our boss, our pets, and our friends – an exercise in herding cats. At some point, we have to withdraw and recharge. This is important. Sometimes our ability to sequester ourselves in a womb of solitude protected from the demands of others can mean the difference between sanity and lunacy. I know.

Some years back I had a job that kept me on call 24-hours a day, 365 days a year. I was responsible for the uptime on a centralized mainframe computer system supporting a major military installation. The military operated non-stop, therefore the computer operated non-stop, therefore I operated non-stop. Fourteen to sixteen hour days were typical, including weekends. I averaged at least one telephone call per night between the hours of midnight and five A.M. On average, two of these trouble calls per week would require me to get out of bed and drive out to the shop to fix a problem. It was exhausting. No, let me rephrase that, it was killing me.

The frustration, stress, anxiety and depression were driving me inexorably to a final dance with my revolver. There was only one thing in my life at that time that was powerful enough to keep me interested in life: my piano. Having a creative outlet save my life.

Human beings create. That’s what we do. We use our imagination and the gift of opposable thumbs to make things. This compulsion to create is what sets us apart from the other animals and our nearest competitors, the Neanderthals.

Somewhere between 20-30 thousand years ago, Homo sapiens ventured deep into caves to create art. They did this at great risk to themselves. In areas where even today access is difficult with the latest technology, they spent hours of precious time investing in the act of creation. So far as we can determine, our Neanderthal cousins did not do this. Only we did. It is what makes us who we are. It is what makes us uniquely human.

In addition to other foundations of culture – supernatural beliefs, burial rituals, rites of passage, and language, we humans developed art for art’s sake. Art historians and anthropologists do not know, exactly, why early humans created these paintings, but I think I do.

They did it in order to create something beautiful and harmonious, something elegant and timely, and something that could transport them away from the short, brutish lives they lived. Whether your daily existence is kill or be killed or a constant battle to separate oneself from the relentless demands of a modern career, the call of art creation springs from the same well of desire: a need to fully experience our humanity.

We live in a world where humans move through the quotidian more as machines than people, more as automatons than fragile souls. Our time is pressed upon. Our personal strength is sapped by others – vampires of time, energy and creativity. That’s why it’s vital to spend time each and every day doing something creative for our self. It is how we connect with our true nature, our core humanity.

There is a reason why art is used as therapy for PTSD victims. It works. We now know that creative endeavors such as art and music build new neural connections in the brain allowing us to see the world differently. Art helps us to gain a new perspective on our worn out paradigms. It allows us to escape into something that belongs only to us. It is time well spent engaging in our personal space, learning about ourselves, exploring our own ideas without interference from others. And it may be that engaging in the creation of art for art’s sake is a very real evolutionary artifact that developed to help us cope with reality, connect with our true nature, and imagine our way to a better future.

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  1. April 27, 2012 at 5:05 am

    Yes! I know exactly what you mean. Sometimes I just want to revert to becoming a hermit constantly creating art but I rarely have time nowadays and I find myself lost in thoughts of creation while I try to sleep… or when I’m on the toilet… or in the shower… or listening to my girlfriend talk to me. Haha! But lately the need inside of me to create has grown so strong and I am literally kept up at night imagining or half-dreaming myself painting or other such things. I believe I need to take the time to get to work soon and satiate my primal instincts of creating art, haha. What an interesting view that I’ve never heard before yet completely believe to be true based on my experiences.

    • April 28, 2012 at 3:34 pm

      Hybridmonkey,

      Thank you for your comments! You may also visit my website http://www.mitchelder.com. I haven’t added to it in quite a while, but I plan on getting out more this summer with my big 4×5 camera. Please tell your friends about our blog, too! I’ve brought together a number of my friends to contribute. My goal is to engage people in conversation about things that really matter – things that make life better for everyone.

      • August 12, 2012 at 5:31 am

        The photos on your website are amazing! I can’t wait to see more! My favorites are of McKenzie River and Sahallie Falls. I also look forward to seeing your still lifes, hehe.

        As an aside, I like your main logo. Did you design it yourself?

      • August 12, 2012 at 3:57 pm

        Thanks. I’m in the process of rebuilding my website. I had a bunch of drawings and intaglio prints up there but since I’m focusing so much on large format photography, I’ve decided to just concentrate on that. I’ll have a cafe press store up soon where people can get prints and posters.

      • August 12, 2012 at 6:40 pm

        Oh cool! I’m looking forward to getting a poster!

      • August 13, 2012 at 2:47 am

        I will certainly post an announcement on the blog as soon as I have things up and ready.

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