Myth, Magic, and Metaphor takes the reader on a journey – a journey of discovery. The book was not written to provide answers. It was written to provoke questions. Tidbits of information about history, art, and literature, philosophy, mathematics, and music are investigated as components of the creative process. In the end, the author hopes that this book will have encouraged the busy reader to stop and take the time to ‘see’ what only the heart can know.
In post 9/11 and all the wars and battles we have experienced since then, let’s recognize that we are all, despite race, creed, or tradition, human beings and that we share this planet, a small ball spinning around in a gigantic universe (which may be but one of many universes). The scope is immeasurable and yet within each one of us lurks a bright light. It is boundless, infinite, invisible. It is called creativity. I call her a muse who lurks within us all.She is waiting within for each of us to recognize her and allow her to express herself be it thru music, painting, photographic art, sculpture, ceramics, writing, or many other venues. She is a gift that binds us as mortals to something much bigger. Something that has no boundaries, no limits. Organization, rules, limits of all sorts are taking over and the idea of no rules and limitless boundaries are frightening to so many today. But there is new word that is catching on and catching on at many levels. The word is ‘globalization’ and it implies extensive opportunities for truly worldwide development. But globalization also begs for the aspect of creativity as a way to encourage our similarities. There is dynamism to creativity; an enthusiasm is generated deep within the individual. Creativity empowers a release of tension. For this reason alone, it is essential.
This book was originally written with the encouragement of Richard Lederer in 1999. So much has changed since then. In this little tome, I encourage an interdisciplinary approach to weed out the creative muse. The readers’ recognition of their own creativity can be expressed in many disciplines from the creative arts to science.
“In the beginning was the Word; and the Word was with God; and the Word was God.”
(The Gospel According to John)
“The word is a sign or symbol of the impressions or affections of the soul.”
Language contains everything from history, to sociology, economics, philosophy, religious thought, even stories. Think of the word ‘community’ as meaning ‘common unity’. Language has been used and abused throughout history but it still reflects human destiny and reveals all that is known of life itself.
Language is ACTIVE; language USES us!
“The genius of democracies,” wrote Alex de Toqueville in 1840, “is seen not only in the great number of new words introduced but even more in the new ideas they express.” To which, in 1936, Willa Cather might be said to reply, “Give the people a new word and they think they have a new fact.” Let’s look at words.
According to Webster’s Dictionary, ‘to think’ means “to have the mind occupied on some subject; to judge, to intend, to imagine, to consider.” It is a transitive verb which means that thinking requires an object. As Paul Brunton stated in The Hidden Teaching Beyond Yoga, “…we cannot see any object without thinking of it as being seen. If it is to exist for us at all, it must exist as something that is perceived.” And he takes his case a step further. “We perceive the object because we think it; we do not think the object because we perceive it.” First the thought, then the thing. (For an in-depth and fascinating discussion of language and the origin of language verses thought, read Thought and Language by Lev Vygotsky in the ‘newly revised’ edition by Alex Kozulin.) The conclusion of this mini-debate is this. My very existence (as a member of the human race) is defined by thought and whether though or the object perceived comes first is for you to decide. Nevertheless, the use which you utilize the connection between thought and perception is directly related to mankind’s very nature which is social. We co-exist on this planet, for better or worse and we communicate with words.
“Man’s mind enables him to form concepts, use language, build societies and cultures; above all, it enables him to work in intellectual community (where)…the emotional and intellectual life of each man is sustained by his unity with others.”
(J. Bronowski’s review of Teilhard de Chardin’s The Future of Man)
Life is a journey. The base of the word ‘journey’, is ‘jour’ meaning day (from the French). Language reveals the journey, the daily experiences which are life. To be more precise, language reveals our own or some other person’s observation. The testimony of the senses leads us to accept multiplicity and change; every moment we see or observe a new image or mental observation of what we call life. A smell, a sound, a touch, each sense stimulates an entire storehouse of memory. These moments are what Friedrich Nietzsche called the “creative truths”. However, language is more than name-calling. Toni Morrison said in her acceptance speech for the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1993, “The vitality of language lies in its ability to limn the actual, imaged, and possible lives of its speakers, readers, and writers…. It arcs toward the place where meaning may lie.” We will explore what the “meaning” or the “creative truths” are as the chapters progress, but let it be established here that history is not defined by dates and and names. History is someone’s point of view, someone’s experience in a particular time in the development (or decay) of the human race. It can be said that historical fiction is a combination of two nouns. The fiction being what is inside your or the protagonist’s mind at the time of an event and history the time and event. Since history is recorded by people, and since all people are prone to their own perspective on what they see, then it might be said that all history is fiction.
“Novels arise out of the shortcomings of history.”
(F. von Hardenberg, Later Novalis, Fragmente und Studien, 1799 - 1800)
Let us return to another history, the history of words. Open a dictionary and explore. Mark Twain joked, “I have studied [a dictionary] often, but I never could discover the plot.” Every word in the dictionary, however, has a plot of its own, its etymology. We understand that individual words, especially nouns, contain history, sociology, economics, politics, and/or drama, keeping in mind that they change and evolve with each generation and sometimes come and go and return in a new context. It can be like a complex maze to attempt to follow the historical trail of a word. But let us begin anyway and choose a word that depicts the essence of what is called ‘life’. It is a word which is not static. Instead it reflects the flow which is life. The word is inspiration.
“Inspiration is more important than knowledge.”
“Inspiration may be a form of superconsciousness, or perhaps of subconsciousness—I wouldn’t know. But I am sure it is the antithesis of self-conscious.”
Inspiration, as we shall see as the chapters progress can be said to be the alluring voice of creativity. Inspiration is also the genesis of the word ‘creativity’.
“Be but thy inspiration given,
No matter though what danger sought,
I’ll fathom hell or climb to heaven,
And yet esteem that cheap which love has bought.
Fame cannot tempt the bard
Who’s famous with his God,
Nor laurel him reward
Who has his maker’s nod.”
(Henry David Thoreau,
Inspiration, last two stanzas)
The etymology of inspiration is the Latin word, inspiratus, past participle of inspirare meaning to blow or breathe upon. Thus, if we follow the evolutionary/etymological sequence through, creativity refers to the life-giving force: breath. When a baby comes out of the womb, he breathes for the first time on his own and begins life as we know it. Analogous to this birthing is the creative process represented by the writer, the painter, the musician or the dancer. Isadora Duncan, the great innovative interpreter of dance at the turn of the twentieth century, spoke of the “state of complete suspense” which proceeds the so-called spontaneous creative activity (dance or music or painting or writing). This non-verbal excitement, dreamlike, vague, ambiguous comes before the creative act or action. Stephen Spender, English poet and critic, expressed this time as “a dim cloud of an idea which I feel must be condensed into a shower of words.”
“All writing requires at least some measure of trance-like state: the writer must summon out of nonexistence some character, some scene, and he must focus that imaginary scene in his mind until he sees it vividly as, in another state, he would see the typewriter or cluttered desk in front of him…. But at times…something happens. A demon takes over…and the imagery becomes real.”
Be beguiled by your own unconscious mind. Allow the door to your unconscious to open, then watch what flows out on the paper before you and read the words in awe.
“It is our idleness,
in our dreams,
that the submerged
comes to the top.”
Richard Lederer, author, lecturer, and commentator of
Myth, Magic and Metaphor is luminous with oracular wisdom about the nature and sources of creativity. From first page to last, this book will inspire you to be inspired.
Pam Binder, artist , Bay City, MI
For anyone looking for their creativity button this small, dynamic book is a must read. Ms. Daly leads the reader through an understandable path to finding your creative juices without wandering too far off the journey to finding your writing powers.
With the many exercises she includes within the chapters it makes this 164 page book even more valuable. I found this journey to writing can also be applied to other arts that the reader may be interested in pursuing.
This is definitely a book you will want to read several times and keep as a handy reference.
Lisa Longworth, PhD, Director Expressive Art Therapy Dept. of International Univ. of Professional Studies and UCSD
I loved reading Myth, Magic and Metaphor. Like a hummingbird sucks its nector; it's been food for my soul fueling my creative process.