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Shaoqi He, Unsplash

“People who have a creative side and do not live it out are most disagreeable clients. They make a mountain out of a molehill, fuss about unnecessary things, are too passionately in love with somebody who is not worth so much attention, and so on. There is a kind of floating charge of energy in them which is not attached to its right object and therefore tends to apply exaggerated dynamism to the wrong situation.

The moment these people devote themselves to what is really important, the whole overcharge flows in the right direction, ceasing to heat up things not worth so much emotional attention.

The religious function is probably the strongest drive in the human psyche. If it is not directed toward its natural goal, it loads up the other areas of life and gives them an unmerited emotionality.”

~Marie-Louise von Franz, Shadow and Evil in Fairy Tales

I’m not religious in the conventional sense of the word, although at times I wish I could be. Something in me refuses it and has done since childhood. I sometimes envy those who can believe in the orthodox fairy tales. It’s just that I can’t take them literally, nor can I adjust myself to the strictures of any organized belief system. I’m interested in the living wisdom that resides under the surface of religious systems, though. I just can’t practice the obedience and observances required. I’d be a hypocrite if I tried.

What I can do is create something every day. To the degree I am stable, I probably owe it to my creativity.

Life in our age is superficial. We’re caught up in the mechanics of living in whatever our particular circumstance is. We don’t have time for depth, for questioning, for reflection or meditation. Our mind-space is crowded with the details of survival.

I’m not a rationalist, though. I don’t reject religion on the basis of scientific arguments. It’s just that the embrace of any system feels crushing to me. I have to keep looking and trying to understand the mysteries. It’s not lost on me that I prefer to live close by to those believers I cannot join, as long as they’re not from my own culture, strangely enough.

I prefer the mystical practices of the natives of Mexico, who have melded an ancient sense of eternal values with a Catholic window dressing. I’ll always be an external onlooker in relation to these practices, but I’m comforted by things like church bells and religious parades, by the attitudes toward death and what’s important in living your life, by the common kindnesses of the people.

I agree with Von Franz that cutting yourself loose from religion is fraught with dangers, not because you’ll suddenly become an unrestrained criminal, but because you’ll be subject to a sense of meaninglessness. You could find yourself restless and forever wandering in your life, unanchored and cast adrift. I know people who don’t want to live anywhere, they just want to be on the move. As soon as they stop they have to face an unbearable emptiness.

It’s hard enough to get and keep your bearings in our world and the religions aren’t helping to put things right. We see that Trump is supported by people who call themselves Christian. It’s a bad joke, but it shows the extent to which the central message of Christianity is lost now.

Von Franz is describing people who are disoriented. Frankly, who isn’t, to one degree or another? Creativity is how I steer my boat.

I recommend it.

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