Log in
Sparks ignite here

Out of chaos…genius


By Denise Connell, Publisher; Éclairity.org Founder

“In the beginning there was Chaos… “

While this might sound like the start of any given Monday – getting your kids to school, rushing to make your sales meeting, finishing that pesky project by the 10am deadline – it is actually the first line of the Greek creation story.  

“In the beginning there was Chaos, a yawning nothingness.”

I’m not Greek, but I could relate. Especially last week.

Everything I tried to move forward by pushing, wrangling, maneuvering, did indeed move forward… and right off the cliff into that ‘yawning nothingness.’ It just sucked it right up, along with my optimism and brainstormed ideas. Rather than turn the tide, my rallying attempts seemed to add that ‘pinch of spice’ needed to complete the dismal, murky soup of my soul’s frustrations.

Chaos indeed.

Maybe you can relate with your own soup-in-the-making.

Just when everything seems to finally be settling down and you catch a glimpse of the oasis in reach, a monkey wrench gets thrown into your almost-paradise:

  • the car engine light goes on, and suddenly you need a new alternator;
  • your washer stops working mid-cycle, with your heaviest load of towels;
  • you’re finally over the flu, when your youngest gets sick and you have to call off work, again;
  • the electric bill is double;
  • the test comes back positive;
  • the fight with your teenager is never-ending;
  • your employees aren’t following the new SOP;
  • and you can’t ever find time to do what makes you happy: read a book; go golfing; snag a nap; tinker with your plants, or painting, or writing.

As I sat in my soup this week and wondered those proverbial whys? and when will it end? kind of questions, Ancient Greece paid a visit. Its wisdom helped me look with new eyes at what I was sitting in, and I’m hoping, maybe, it will help you, too.

An Axial Age alternative

The 800-200 BCE Axial Age was a time of incredible creative genius in Greece, China, India and the Middle East, with breakthroughs in philosophy, art, science, and religion. Eric Weiner, who wrote Geography of Genius, studied this period to figure out why. What was in place during this period – and other periods of humanity’s genius – that allowed these bright lights of insight and development to burst through and flourish?   

What he found made me sit on the edge of my soup bowl and take notes.

Creative breakthrough – of any sort and in any era -- has typically come in times of fragmentation and imperfection rather than in times of calm and prosperity. The idea – and often the fantasy for many, me included, of creating works of wonder in a “paradise”-type setting, where you don’t have to worry about money, or schedule, or struggle and can just focus on your art / project / work-without-obstacles – is actually antithetical to what is needed for a new idea, thought, or creative direction to rise.

Take the Athens of olden times. It was anything but mighty back in those BCE days. Athens was a small city, without much power, and a lot of poverty. “Old orders were crumbling and the new ones were not yet solidified." There were cracks in the systems everywhere during this Axial Age. And yet, that's when genius surfaced. Think Plato, Socrates, Aristotle for starters.

Weiner points out that it was these very “cracks” in the order of life that let the light in for new thoughts, new ideas to spring up and grow.

'Paradise' doesn’t birth creativity or creative breakthroughs, because breakthroughs need something to break-through. “Paradise makes no demands, and creative genius takes root through meeting demands in new and creative ways” (italics mine).

If you’re living a life without stress, without obstacles or challenges, what’s the incentive to look for a new approach, strategy, or solution? There is no need for a new perspective if the old one is working just fine. There is no need to look with ‘new eyes’ at how you're doing life, if the current way is satisfying enough.  

It's the dark and dang-it! places of life that forces us to do the creative, genius-work to get beyond it to something new, or better, or never-tried-before.

Maybe sitting in the dismal, murky soup of our soul’s frustrations is exactly where we need to be for something new to emerge.

If you read the next five words of that Grecian creation story, that’s exactly what they thought.

“In the beginning there was Chaos, a yawning nothingness.”

And then….

“Out of the void emerged…” LIFE.

It’s their origin of life story that starts with chaos and ends with gods. Albeit crazy gods that endlessly fought, ate their children and chopped off heads. But eventually they settled down to form oceans and earth and the rest of the world.

The Ancient Greeks believed – and proved out with the other Axial Age avant-garde – that sometimes chaos is needed for creativity. It's the murky and muddy, the confusing and not-knowing that acts as fertilizer for growth. Insight. Discovery. Genius.

Creative solution-finding comes out of the raw material of life's messiness. The uncomfortable environment is what urges, demands a response. The discomfort is essential, like the sand in an oyster shell; it’s how the pearl gets formed.

My weekend reminder didn’t suddenly turn my darkness into day, but it encouraged me not to run away. Not from the soup, or frustration, or nothing-ends of efforts made. Instead, it made me realize, I’m about to become a genius!

Okay, maybe a genius at sitting a little longer in the mess and muck of it all. Or at least long enough for the alchemy of new alternatives to rise and flavor the rest of my story, Greek soup style.

How about you?

Ask the deeper questions & take action

1.  What is seeming to thwart your ability to live your best, most creative and fulfilling life right now?

2. What would you rather move on from fast, rather than sit with for awhile?

3. How can looking at the chaos in your situation as necessary for new ideas or creative breakthroughs help you pause and reflect in the midst of it? What does pausing and reflecting look like for you?

4. What is something you can say “no” to so you can say “yes” to pausing and reflecting time, so you can tune-in to the life that is waiting to emerge for you?

How can I get more creative? What is a good strategy for managing all the chaos in my life? Are there any benefits of struggling? What is Éclairity.org? Tips for a change in perspective? What can I do to give me a better perspective on my situation? Lifestyle, Faith & Inspiration, How can I start living a better, more fulfiling life?


No comments on this item Please log in to comment by clicking here