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Photographer unknown.

When you are trying to help someone, you have to have humor, self-existing humor, and you have to hold the moth in your hand, but not let it go into the flame. That’s what helping others means. Ladies and gentlemen, we have so much responsibility. A long time ago, people helped one another in this way. Now people just talk, talk talk. They read books, they listen to music, but they never actually help anyone. They never use their bare hands to save a person from going crazy. We have that responsibility. Somebody has to do it. It turns out to be us. We’ve got to do it, and we can do it with a smile, not with a long face. ~Chögyam Trungpa


The only thing that can truly help us is genuine love. You must truly love, be patient with us and share with us. And we must love you — with a genuine love that forgives and forgets…a love that gives the terrible sufferings your culture brought ours when it swept over us like a wave crashing along a beach…with a love that forgets and lifts up its head and sees in your eyes an answering love of trust and acceptance.

This is brotherhood…
anything less is not worthy of the name.

I have spoken.”

~Chief Dan George


Creativity is playful. Life is nothing if not creative. Art without play is dead. It’s nothing. We need a lively sense of play all the way from birth to death. When we lose our sense of play we’re finished. We may as well give up the ghost.

I was amazed to see old photos of my father in his twenties because they had a sense of play about them, a sense of adventure and even sensuality. By the time I knew him, most of that was gone. His success in the world had come at the expense of his joy in living. He had bought the idea that monetary success implies wisdom, that it settles all questions.

I remember my mother’s sister, leaving the room where my father had been holding forth too long, repeating under her breath, “Pride goeth before a fall.” In American society, failure is painful but success can be lethal. My father had become an autocrat of the dinner table. He had lost his sense of proportion and play.

When I took up the practice of art, I had to learn how central the element of play is in the creative process. It gradually dawned on me that art making is akin to love making, pleasure and play are paramount. You can’t fake that. Talent is good to have but it can’t replace simple enjoyment of serendipity. Finding the unexpected is impossible if you just dutifully stick to the rules. Invention, as any child knows, is fun. It’s creative fun. It often turns into real art.

Beginning artists are anxious to learn the rules, to prove they have talent and technique, but that’s just the first step. If they don’t allow themselves to enter a state of “not knowing” where they engage in play until something serendipitous shows up, they risk producing something mediocre.

Creative talent is more than facility, it’s more than finesse. It’s the ability to hold and access several divergent mindsets at the same time. It’s both control and release, play and discipline, labor and fun. It penetrates deeper than where the everyday mind usually reaches.

When it is able to do that, something new is revealed. Something true is discovered. The artist who expresses something like that gives her unique stamp to it even if it has been expressed by artists of the past. There is no shame in rediscovering a truth and giving it a new costume.

How you speak will find its appropriate audience. Everyone who finds their voice makes a contribution. Creative power has a large element of play and enjoyment. You are at your most creative when you can relax and have fun.

Written by

I occasionally write fiction and also about creativity, loving, language learning and travel. I’m a longtime painter and reader.

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