I’ve always known I was a creative person, and I’m glad for that. There is a lot of talk out there now about creativity, how people don’t think they have it, and how to foster it. For me, understanding that I’m creative doesn’t actually stem from things I create, but rather the inspiration I get to experience—regardless of whether or not I bring the ideas to fruition. Inspiration is everywhere, and that is part of the reason why sites like Pinterest have been so successful. The problem isn’t in finding inspiration but rather being open to its possibilities. The Greeks used to call upon muses to help them tell stories and create music and art, and for us, modern day muses don’t wait for the call. The problem, however, is that we aren’t always willing to experience the inspiration and thus have no foundation to create anything interesting.
“We already got the cat food; why are you just standing there?” Kevin calls this to me as he pushes the cart down the aisle toward the birdfeeders.
“I want this song, but I don’t know what is is, so I’m asking Siri.” I’ve done that more than once in the middle of a store. There is part of me that doesn’t want other shoppers to hear me ask my phone what song is playing because a) everyone else probably knows without asking and b) this is not a normal way to encounter a fellow shopper. I can’t help myself, and I honestly don’t care if I’m judged for my pause in the catfood aisle; if I can make someone smile and chuckle, then the experience may have already paid for itself.
The shopping trip to Menard’s last week followed this scene, and the song has been on repeat in my head ever since. Clarification is needed there; I put the song on repeat—it isn’t “stuck” in my head. I’m an eighties baby, and I sometimes get stuck on tunes that were popular when I was a kid. Simon and Garfunkel’s “Cecilia” is one such example. Unlike a peppy tune about infidelity, my new love has a higher meaning.
The original version is timestamped with an eighties synthesized intro that leads into a gospel-like experience. The two newest versions, however, have toned down the extras leaving only space for vocals, piano and the chance for the listener to experience inspiration along with the tune’s inherent motivation. The lyrics are calm in painting a stark reality of the world, yet they explicitly ask for something more. The melody follows the same storyline, allowing the listener to feel like they are walking a path through a barren forest and meeting travelers coming from the speck of sun in the distance. When will the listener reach the budding trees these passing smiles speak of? Soon, but you have to keep wanting to reach them.
I’m not sure what song is playing in your head right now, but I have Steve Winwood’s “Higher Love” on repeat. Although there is a pleading desire to experience the higher love, these new slower versions of the song seem to illustrate the idea that the journey is just as important as the destination. The first one I heard was James Vincent McMorrow’s 2011 cover, which Kevin deemed too slow to dance to. Lilly Winwood takes over lead vocals and is supported by her father on piano and harmony in their 2016 version of the song. It is slightly faster, but has a subtly more haunting quality.
This song has brought me great joy over the past few weeks. I haven’t played it while interpreting the lyrics in paint, or while writing, or even while cleaning the kitchen, but a little dose seems to take me far as I’ve entered into spring with arms outstretched. The posture might be related to Amy Cuddy’s power posing TED talk I showed my 9th graders last week, but my positive outlook could have been tainted by the heart wrenching read, When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi, I just finished yesterday. As a cancer survivor, I don’t mind talking about cancer, but I do look for ways to avoid reading about it or watching cancer related films. It isn’t necessarily a been there, done that, mentality that I have, but more of a desire to avoid reasons to cry that lands those books back on the shelf shortly after being in my considering hands.
Inspiration is usually bound to surface after the tears have dried, and Kalanithi’s life story didn’t come up short. The combination of experiences can easily go unnoticed in our fast-paced lives, but recognition of juxtaposition is, I believe, the birthplace of inspiration and creativity. We have to be willing to see how things intersect in a way they never have before. After reading Kalanithi’s words I’m not scared that my life will end short of me accomplishing the things I’ve planned, or that I won’t ever experience the “higher love” I know this world has the capacity to enjoy. Instead, I feel renewed in my belief that every day endeavors each have the ability to be hints and sparks of a higher love.
So this morning after an early church service, I enjoyed playing an intense strategy board game with friends. Our thirst was quenched with mimosas, our bodies nourished with farm-fresh eggs and toasted cinnamon bread from the shop around the corner, and our higher love facilitated by our time spent together.