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Why do we create? Kahlil Gibran tells us why

BY: Issa Mohammed
 The urge to create is innate
The urge to create is innate

There is no deeper desire than the desire of being revealed. We all want that little light in us to be taken from under the bushel.” — Kahlil Gibran

I hadn’t written anything for a few months when, one early Saturday morning, I got out my laptop and sat down. I went to my Scrivener folder titled “2018 essays” and created a new file: “Why I feel the urge to create.”

I proceeded to spend the next few hours doing nothing but staring at the blank screen, followed by much rumination on why I couldn’t write.

The truth is, I shouldn’t be worried whether I write or not. My livelihood doesn’t depend on writing. I’m not contracted by any newspaper or beholden to any pressing deadline. I have no expected date of manuscript submission with an editor. Yet, during those three months of not writing, I ended each day full of guilt.

At first, I thought I just missed the feeling of fulfilment I get from writing. Something akin to a runner’s high—that feeling of “flow.”

But the reality was more complex. Without my writing, I’d lost a vital feeling of worthiness. I had linked my self-worth to writing; thus, in not writing, I’d become nothing. I was a failure in my own eyes for abandoning the practice that gave me so much joy.

After a few weeks of remorse, I decided to investigate deeper. Why had I felt so bad when I stopped creating?

First, I gave myself permission not to write for a whole month.Then I wrote in bold letters on an index card, “Why do I feel that I must create?” and carried it with me for a week.

As is always the case when we focus our consciousness on a particular question or incident, many answers serendipitously arose—thoughts, conversations, articles, movies, books and more.

I already knew what benefits I experienced from writing, especially a strong connection with my inner voice and refined thinking on any topic or issue at hand.

However, this time round, I was looking for a more comprehensive and universal explanation for why humans feel this inner need to create.

Whether we are painting in caves, writing novels that engage our collective imagination or creating symphonies that remain imprinted on our minds for years, the inner urge to create is somehow built into our DNA.

It’s no coincidence that social media has permeated our lives to such a degree. True, social media has many disadvantages—especially in the way it’s feeding our self-indulgence and narcissism.

However, beneath all that negativity lies some gold: we do create.

Whether we’re creating an image that depicts a current experience or sharing some creative work that we’ve done, today we have access to many more platforms for creativity.

Inquiry

The urge to create has been a perennial point of inquiry since time immemorial, and some of the greatest minds of our time have produced much literature on the subject.

In my period of focusing on this question, I came across a simple but telling contribution from one of my favourite writers, poets and thinkers, Khalil Gibran.

In a letter to Mary Haskell penned on November 10, 1911, Gibran writes:

“There is an old Arabic song which begins, “Only God and I know what is in my heart” — and today, after rereading your last three letters, I said out loud “Only God and Mary and I know what is in my heart.”

“I would open my heart and carry it in my hand so that others may know also; for there is no deeper desire than the desire of being revealed.

We all want that little light in us to be taken from under the bushel. The first poet must have suffered much when the cave-dwellers laughed at his mad words. He would have given his bow and arrows and lion skin, everything he possessed, just to have his fellow-men know the delight and the passion which the sunset had created in his soul. And yet, is it not this mystic pain — the pain of not being known — that gives birth to art and artists?”

Gibran’s words are so elegant that his wisdom never fails to strike me instantaneously. “There is no deeper desire than the desire of being revealed.”

I meditated on that sentence for a while and realised that, like all human beings, I’m yearning to reveal my true inner self to the outside world. I want my madness to be seen. To be accepted. To be understood.

Creativity

Creativity is the driving force that helps us find our inner voice, and it is the only means we have to share our authentic selves with each other. I’ve learned through my writing—and through exposing my writing to public audiences—that we are all parts of an interconnected whole.

However, even though we are all connected, we are also unique beings. As such, we feel a compulsive longing to show our individuality to one another.

Just like a peacock is proud to display his colourful array of feathers, we do so naturally. There is no ego or shame.“This is who I am,” we say.

Waiting for a flight at the airport a month ago, I met someone holding my book, “The Shift”. He approached me and asked me to sign it.

“I would love to,” I said. He went on to say that he had read most of my articles in the local newspaper and loved my writing.

It’s beautiful when another person tells you that they loved what you created. Perhaps, I’m being shallow or maybe I’m showing off my true Leo colours. But I can’t deny that I love hearing that I’ve made someone sit up and think, if only for a moment.

There’s no ego or shame in that. This is who I am.

Path

Creativity is the path to stripping down to our souls and celebrating our quirky nakedness. We are beautiful—imperfect bodies, oversized bellies, cellulite thighs, and scars on our stomachs.

That is what makes us so unique. When we reach a place of authenticity through our creative practice, we feel free to be ourselves. We feel accepted for and proud of our flaws.

We are just like the many different trees standing in a forest. No two are alike. Perhaps one is more beautiful to look at, another can bear more fruit, and another has the strength to sustain a large area of earth through its extensive roots.

However, they are not ashamed of their inadequacies, but rather stand tall in their true, special nature.

Creativity allows us to remove unwanted layers of ourselves to reach our inner cores, peeling away until there is nothing to remove and we become whole, one with the power of the universe.

The universe is an empty canvas and it’s our duty to create ourselves onto it. We all need to be represented in that huge canvas called life.

The writer is a motivational speaker/CEO, KIMO Home. E-mail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.