Creators and Destroyers
Serving order or chaos
If you’ve read The RARE SENSE Manifesto, you know that I base my method for mind fitness on three blocks: Orient, Develop, and Maintain. Under each are three actions. And they are somewhat sequential. Every action, at least in part, builds upon the previous one.
This month, I want to do a deep dive into Create, which stands on the shoulders of Learn. I divide learning into two parts - knowledge and skills, both of which can foster innovation. However, this article will focus strictly on creation that results from the latter, specifically art.
As I’ve written about before, learning a skill is a worthwhile endeavor for numerous reasons.1 It helps develop new neural pathways and can distract the subconscious from useless chatter and patterns that tend to dominate unfocused minds. But we can go beyond the upsides of dexterity and adroitness that come from such disciplines. Because once we have specific skills, we are better equipped to use our mental capacity in another way—to bring something new into the world.
Human beings have an ability for artistic expression that’s unparalleled on the planet. Of course, other animals demonstrate this competency to some extent. But all you have to do is look at the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel to realize the enormous disparity between them and us in this arena. Remember, what makes us the dominant species on Earth is our minds. And things like this are a display of mental capability, not physical prowess.
Art is also one way we can essentially improve upon nature, especially with music. The world provides us with some beautiful noises: birds chirping, ocean waves crashing, and leaves rustling in the wind, to name a few. But human musical composition creates a structure to sound that’s genuinely better than what innately exists. The product can be unbelievably moving. That’s true with classical pieces by Bach, Mozart, or Beethoven, as well as pop songs made up of “three chords and the truth.” Additional fields of study like sculpture, woodworking, and architecture can also generate order and splendor. All of them demonstrate our mental abilities, expressed through the mastery of skills.
A world where we spent much of our time creating via these specialties would be amazing. The problem is that too often, we tend to do the opposite. We destroy. Because it’s easier to break something than build something. It can also be gratifying and fun. I’m not condemning humans as a presumptively calamitous species or a “virus” per Agent Smith’s speech in The Matrix. Far from it. What I’m asserting is that we can do this kind of thing. And quite often, we default to it.
Of course, not all destruction is bad. Sometimes you need to tear things down to build anew. Many cycles in nature reinforce this reality. Emergent life often relies upon some measure of disintegration and death. But those same acts teach us a critical lesson, the necessity of balance. A commensurate act of conception should offset every act of demolition. We need a yin for every yang.
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When I consider this concept in human output terms, I think the necessity of creative endeavors may help our mental state in a way beyond just mind development. These acts of expression might also bring about a balance that can be sorely lacking for many of us. Reflecting on my time in the military, I realize that much of what I did involved damage. There was a lot of breaking things, blowing things up, kicking things over, etc. All of it was part of the job and served a noble motive. Saving lives or preserving democracy often requires these types of acts. But from a strictly universal equilibrium sense, the scales definitely tipped towards the left end of the destruction-creation spectrum.
So as I transitioned to civilian life, I found that needed to tilt them back. I had to find ways to lean into artistic creation. Luckily I’ve been playing guitar since I was sixteen years old. And over the years, I’ve written and recorded several tunes. None of it is going to win me a Grammy any time soon. But continuing to craft songs post-service not only provided me with an emotional catharsis but also helped bring me back into balance. I like to think of my consciousness as a vessel whereby every act of destruction empties it a little. The only way to fill it back up is by creating. As a newly minted veteran, my cup was pretty void.
You might recall from your high school physics class that the universe continuously moves towards a state of entropy. I’m not a scientist, and I know this isn’t technically exactly correct, but in rudimentary terms, I think of this concept as describing a world that slowly becomes less energetic and more chaotic. Put crudely, all of existence eventually gets destroyed by its very nature. And while we can’t stop this process, we can create patches of order and beauty instead of accelerating an ultimately ruinous end.
It comes down to another theme from The Matrix films - choice. Not every act is one of destruction or creation. But when able to do one or the other, how will you spend your time? If you choose the latter, not only will you challenge your brain to produce something out of thin air, you might just charge your glass too.
DISCLAIMER: RARE SENSE content is not medical advice. Nor does it represent the official position or opinions of any other organization or person. If you require diagnosis or treatment for a mental or physical issue or illness, please seek it from a licensed professional.