Of Liberty and Laughter

I’ve been getting out and meeting people lately, something relatively new for a reclusive homebody like me. I met with a great group of people last night to discuss an interesting topic. What happened took me by surprise.

I usually do pretty well at finding out what a gathering is about and how to contribute in ways that add rather than detract. Last night I was stymied. It was frustrating. I don’t like throwing wrenches into gearworks, especially when I’m the newbie, but all I could find were wrenches.

By the time I was next to last to talk, I felt at a complete loss. So, I decided to be honest, take the risk of being the token downer for the evening, and did my best to say something genuine, no matter how it did or didn’t fit. Afterwards, I wasn’t so sure; silence might have been the better part of valor. I even explained my “believe first, ask questions later” policy. That was ironic, given that I talked about it precisely because I couldn’t find a way to do it.

I couldn’t process the situation quickly enough to handle it better at the time, but this morning I realized what the problem was. It had to do with energy and creativity.

Jesus said that we will know the truth and the truth will set us free. When I’ve encountered truth like that, and when I’ve seen others encounter it, a single, simple reaction marks the event. We laugh. Laughing is the sign of something so unexpectedly cool that we have no other way of reacting. It’s what comedians do to us.

Truth that sets us free is never the same old same old. It’s not familiar. It’s not just a new shade of orange — it’s a kumquat or a life jacket. It doesn’t occur to us if we don’t need liberation; but if we do, then we need unfamiliar, surprising truths. There are lesser ones, I’m sure, but I’m also sure that there’s no good reason to settle for them. When you find an angle that makes you laugh, you found one that was worth looking for.

As I listened last night to people sharing their insights, I heard familiar ideas and methods; but boredom wasn’t the problem. I was frustrated by lack of enthusiasm, by ideas and methods that were familiar to them. These were truths that they hoped would improve their lives. Liberation didn’t seem to be an issue, nor was laughter very evident.

When we follow recipes, prescribed methods, regimens, practices, etc., we hope to achieve goals by using a corrective or aid. The ends are defined, the means are defined, and so the only question is whether we’ll do what it takes to “get there.” This is the opposite of liberation. This is achieving better conditions inside the same old, familiar prison.

Liberation cannot be prescribed, because it eliminates prescription. Liberation is not a matter of achieving defined goals, but of opening unfamiliar vistas to entirely new ranges of possibility, freeing us to choose the goals we want to achieve and how we want to achieve them. In other words, liberation frees us to create.

Creativity, by its nature, is unauthorized. Therefore, creativity works against status quo and political correctness. Creative acts and their products can coincidentally line up with social norms and mores, but concern for that alignment doesn’t inspire them. Pressure to fit in only hampers creativity or, at best, acts like an irritant provoking pearls of creativity to form in reaction.

Creativity necessarily and unavoidably involves danger. This is why artists and creative thinkers in any sector get socially marginalized, especially during their most creative periods and for their most creative efforts. Associating with them is socially risky. If they do become publicly recognized, they get accosted with that strange contradiction we call “celebrity,” an incongruent celebration of lives that we have no intention of personally engaging with, but which we enjoy making a ruckus over, occasionally titillating ourselves with the fruits of their labors for short periods under contrived circumstances.

In that society is dehumanizing, creativity is intrinsically anti-social, because creativity is a life-engendering assertion of not only the human spirit but the human individual. Essential to creativity is a defiant, independent self-affirmation that challenges the very predication of society. Creativity is an act of violence, not against humans or humanity or any other valuable reality, but against the myths that occupy human psyches in opposition to the dignity and sovereignty and power of the single living being — the sanctity and sacredness of one.

Creativity can do what strength in numbers cannot, enabling one to overcome many. Even if the many physically destroy creator and creation, they cannot destroy the creativity that creator and creation embodied. The most that the many can do is destroy physical traces and block them from individual and collective memory. The energy and resources that this destruction and erasure require only affirm the power and consequence of the creativity they tried to obliterate. When everything is finally revealed as it truly is and was, the supremacy of creation will blare and its triumph will be complete and absolute.

In order to get creative, then, we must be willing to stand alone, do something that no one else will do, and risk the dangers of blowback and fallout. Creativity is daring. You feel it when you get around it, a completely different, defiant energy that’s absent when people play it safe or busily follow directions.

Creative energy not only seemed lacking last night — it seemed blocked. But that wasn’t what frustrated me. I felt unable to do anything about it. I had no clue what to do. I usually have at least that. I looked around the table and listened to each person as they spoke, hearing their sincere interests in something better, felt one with them in that, and yet felt like nothing we said made a dent towards getting what we wanted. Not that I’m always supposed to have the answer, of course. I’m just a guy. But all of us can and should contribute to an answer; otherwise what are we doing here? I hope that I can do better next time.

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About Millard J. Melnyk

Motley past, promising future exploring an open, potent understanding of individual dignity and power. DEMOCRATIZE EVERYTHING!
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