The creative process is how we engage with life, and all of us engage with life in a variety of ways. Teaching has been my creative passion because it seems to me to be the ultimate “meeting of life.” When we work with a new group, we have no idea who is going to show up or what challenges (or gifts) lie before us. Jacob Needleman, one of my favorite authors, says that a sense of meaning is more important than anything else in life. Without meaning, we are in despair. He writes, “We’re built to serve something greater than ourselves.”
Getting Messy is a book about the beauty and richness of teaching. Here’s an excerpt from the Conclusion:
A friend who loves metaphors asked me what metaphor came to my mind for this book. My subconscious mind immediately gave me a very clear image, but I didn’t want to share it, because my image was the mushroom cloud after the atomic bomb was dropped. (That certainly was messy.)
My subconscious had been influenced by a play I saw recently about the science that led up to the bomb. What I remember from watching the play is that two different substances collide which results in the splitting of atoms, and the splitting of atoms creates an enormous amount of energy. Finding myself curious, I looked it up on wikipedia.org:
“In 1898, French physicist Pierre Curie and his Polish wife Maria Sklodowska-Curie had discovered that present in pitchblende, an ore of uranium, was a substance which emitted large amounts of radioactivity, which they named radium. This raised the hopes of both scientists and lay people that the elements around us could contain tremendous amounts of unseen energy, waiting to be tapped.”
There is something about the line “containing tremendous amounts of unseen energy, waiting to be tapped” that has to do with why this particular image came up for me. Getting Messy is about learning, creativity, imagination, and traversing into unknown space. It presents a higher vision of teaching and learning, a vision that bridges two well-established polarities: learner-expert and learning process- creative process. When we bridge these polarities, we create third space—imaginal space. Like the radium discovered by Pierre and Maria Curie, imaginal space is already present in our everyday lives. It is unseen energy waiting to be tapped. I believe it’s time for us to tap it.
Note: The quilt at the top of this post was made by Essie Bendolph Pettway. See more Gee’s Bend quilts at http://www.auburn.edu/academic/other/geesbend/explore/catalog/slideshow/index.htm