GNL number 48

the GOOD NEWS  lately

a report of doings at meeting #48, Sunday, May 15, 2011
including liturgical notes, major themes, and other odds and ends


Art enables us to find ourselves and lose ourselves at the same time.
—–Thomas Merton

Creativity is inventing, experimenting, growing, taking risks,
breaking rules, making mistakes, and having fun.
—–Mary Lou Cook, community activist, calligrapher, author



Before we started formally, we asked for an update on Christine’s progress from Sue, who reported that Chris had come home and when she spoke with her a few days ago, she was in pretty good spiirits though tired and sleeping a lot; and that yesterday’s email from her husband said she had had chemo 3 days ago with the expected side effects, but was a bit better today and hoping to be able to send out messages soon. (She’s been feeling deeply thankful to all her wellwishers.)

Nancy began this conversation on ART and CREATIVITY by confessing some frustration with common assumptions in our culture about both ideas—that art is something done by special people called artists, creativity is something some of us are gifted with, and a lot of us are just “not artistic”  She felt strongly that we all have creative power we use daily solving problems, that “art” is for all, and that we could learn from many “primitive”cultures that probably didn’t even have a word for “art” but expected everyone to just do it as part of their response to life.  She also cited a recent experience at her Trash to Treasure table on Earth Day, where (overjoyed) kids given a mountain of recyclables and freedom, created masterpieces like castles and flying dragons!  See AFTERWORDS for details, other notes and quotes.

Sue read several  quotes by people famed for their creations in literature, visual arts and music. (For which see AFTERWORDS.)   And she noted how important to her own sense of art is the element of surprise, and especially, the need for making meaning.  She recalled how, starting during her dad’s difficult decline, how writiing her daily poems over the years had helped her find meaning and grace.  And we added, to pass that on to others. She also responded to Nancy’s note on art in indigenous cultures with the example of Papua New Guinea society’s idea of “art” as natural to life.

Anna spoke again of growing up junior to her academic-scholar-genius sister, and unable to compete with that, taking an opposite and very artistic path. This was first in modern dance, then classical music (on recorders), and then for most of her later adult life, photography, each of which had been gratifying in its turn.

Our hostess, Vijaya, was responsible for much of the beauty on hand today, with her gorgeous tulip garden in full bloom out back of her building, and the store itself such a feast of exotic colors, forms and fragrance. But she also brought her “love” packets she’d made from scarf pieces, and wore a lovely shirt made for her by her sister Indira.  And at the end she led us on a tour of her gift to the community, the “peace garden” behind the music store on Union Street, which has been planted with many trees (and nice rocks), and more coming soon.

Ann recalled her awareness as a child of her mom’s ability to draw, and her own lack of that, but later discovering a “color-patch game” she made a happy habit of.   She brought many quotes as well, keying especially on the relation between creativity and adaptability, and of course some fine 6wordies.  See AW for all these.  Ann also cited a Christian Science Monitor piece on the 32,000 year old cave paintings in France: beautiful animal pictures, including an 8-legged horse (surely running, by a very creative mind?)

Like Vijaya, Cynthia  brought a show and tell: she and Ron had found an unusual and lovely plant last year on their property, which they kept over in a container of native soil,  till now it is happily rebounded and sporting beautiful pink blooms.  They discovered it is a rare, shy plant called polygala or “gaywings”, and Cynthia is eager to draw it in bloom. 

Gail described the very difficult process going on in her life of trying to find a creative solution to building a fence on their property, without Cliff’s physical help, but incorporating his intellectual help and experiential wisdom.  This, she said, has been a story of adapting— as Ann had pointed out: creativity is adaptability and vice versa.

We were happy to see Jill back, and she was one who spoke of growing up thinking she “wasn’t artistic”—because of teachers’ narrow judgment about what was good enough. But years later, she realized, for one thing, her special chocolate chip cookies were worshipped by all, and she started trying other things, like decorating an old box by inlaying the top with colored glass pieces in a mosaic design, and learning basket-weaving. This was not only satisfying, but the results beautiful (and the photos she showed proved it!).

Adair had exciting details first about the big change in progress: her house sale, purchase of a new home in Maine, and imminent move there.  She described the new area’s cultural attractions, including a wonderful local library, Bowdoin College, and a senior college, which she is eager to jump right into, as she feels her own higher education was narrowly work-related, and she now longs for the fuller, deeper life education that liberal arts courses can offer. And indeed feels that the arts and music are the stuff of life. (She also said she’d always self-described as one who had “not an artistic bone in her body.” But all of us who had seen her self-designed house would call it a work of art.)   Adair is planning to leave June 14, but we hope she’ll be able to join us at our June 12 meeting.

We decided the perfect recipient for our offering today would be the newly reorganized TriCounty Arts Council.


Art is the only way to run away without leaving home.
—Twyla Tharp, dancer, choreographer

Creativity can be described as letting go of certainties.
—Gail Sheehy, writer


Sunday, June 12, 2011 (1030), at Jack’s (unless he’s not feeling up to it, in which case again you’ll get an email or call a couple days before the meeting, of a change of venue—probably at Nancy’s).   Subject:  POTLUCK!

And here are some old and new ideas to stir your topic pot: 

  • —Secret Wishes
  • —What I Want To Be When I Grow Up
  • —Talents and Skills
  • —What I’d Like To Do More Of
  • —Small Pleasures
  • —Vibrations
  • —Ancestors
  • —Priorities
  • —Necessities
  • —Aging
  • —Loss
  • —Forgiveness
  • —Control
  • —Favorite Book of the Last Year
  • —Favorite Movie of the Last Year
  • —What I Most Want to Change About Our Culture
  • —What’s on My Mind This Week
  • —What Drives Me Crazy


from Sue:

  • “Imagination is the beginning of creation. You imagine what you desire, you will what you imagine and at last you create what you will.”~George Bernard Shaw
  • “Creativity is allowing yourself to make mistakes. Art is knowing which ones to keep.”~Scott Adams
  • “Making the simple complicated is commonplace; making the complicated simple, awesomely simple, that’s creativity.”–Charlie Mingus
  • “An artist is a dreamer consenting to dream of the actual world.”~George Santayana
  • “Art begins with resistance – at the point where resistance is overcome. No human masterpiece has ever been created without great labor.”~Andre Gide
  • “We all know that art is not truth. Art is a lie that makes us realize truth, at least the truth that is given us to understand.”~Pablo Picasso
  • “In art, truth and reality begin when one no longer understands what one is doing or what one knows, and when there remains an energy that is all the stronger for being constrained, controlled and compressed.”~Henri Matisse

from Ann:

The Art of Creativity

When the creative spirit stirs, it animates a style of being: a lifetime filled with the desire to innovate, to explore new ways of doing things, to bring dreams of reality. By D. Goleman, P. Kaufman, published on March 01, 1992 – last reviewed on May 30, 2007

Has this ever happened to you? You’re out for a jog, completely relaxed, your mind a pleasant blank. Then all of a sudden the solution to a problem you’ve been mulling over for weeks pops into your head. You can’t help but wonder why you didn’t think of it before.

In such moments you’ve made contact with the creative spirit, that elusive muse of good—and sometimes great—ideas. Yet it is more than an occasional insight. When the creative spirit stirs, it animates a style of being: a lifetime filled with the desire to innovate, to explore new ways of doing things, to bring dreams of reality.

That flash of inspiration is the final moment of a process marked by distinctive stages—the basic steps in creative problem-solving. The first stage is preparation, when you search out any information that might be relevant. It’s when you let your imagination roam free. Being receptive, being able to listen openly and well, is a crucial skill here.

That’s easier said than done. We are used to our mundane way of thinking about solutions.

Psychologists call this “functional fixedness.” We see only the obvious way of looking at a problem—the same comfortable way we always think about it. Another barrier is self-censorship, that inner voice of judgment that confines our creative spirit within the boundaries of what we deem acceptable. It’s the voice that whispers to you, “They’ll think I’m foolish,” or “That will never work.” But we can learn to recognize this voice or judgment and have the courage to discount its destructive advice.

Once you have mulled over all the relevant pieces and pushed your rational mind to the limits, you can let the problem simmer. This is the incubation stage, when you digest all you have gathered. It’s a stage when much of what goes on occurs outside your focused awareness, in the unconscious. As the saying goes, “You sleep on it.”

The unconscious mind is far more suited to creative insight than the conscious mind. Ideas are free to recombine with other ideas in novel patterns and unpredictable associations. It is also the storehouse of everything you know, including things you can’t readily call into awareness. Further, the unconscious speaks to us in ways that go beyond words, including the rich feelings and deep imagery of the senses.

We are more open to insights from the unconscious mind when we are not thinking of anything in particular. That is why daydreams are so useful in the quest for creativity. Anytime you can just daydream and relax is useful in the creative process: a shower, long drives, a quiet walk. For example, Nolan Bushnell, the founder of the Atari company, got the inspiration for what became a best-selling video game while idly flicking sand on a beach.

With luck, immersion and daydreaming lead to illumination, when all of a sudden the answer comes to you as if from nowhere. This is the popular stage—the one that usually gets all the glory and attention, the moment that people sweat and long for, the feeling “This is it!” But the thought alone is still not a creative act. The final stage is translation, when you take your insight and transform it into action; it becomes useful to you and others.

The Art of Creativity – an article about the desire to innovate, how we get to those aha moments


  • Apparently there is nothing that cannot happen today.–Mark Twain
  • A painting in a museum probably hears more foolish remarks than anything else in the world.–Edmond and Jules De Goncourt
  • Art is the objectification of feeling.–Suzanne K. Langer
  • What is a weed? A plant whose virtues have not yet been discovered.–Ralph Waldo Emerson
  • Six Wordies

  • Creativity is adaptability and vice versa.
  • Art and creativity are seeking solutions.
  • Do you see what I see?
  • Science and art reflect one another.
  • There is beauty in E=mc squared.
  • from Nancy

    Some ideas, some questions, somewhat explored if not answered

    What is art to me? A big, broad thing, like revelations of meaning passed along to fellow wayfarers, not necessarily by anointed artists. And as reflected in the quotations below.

    What do other cultures think of as “art”?  Do they all have a word for what we mean with our word?  I suspect not.  I suspect many indigenous societies don’t, suspect that many consider making beauty/truth in some way that expresses your soul is what everybody does as part of his life, like your thankyou, your offering.

    What is creativity to me?  Thinking outside the box, possibility thinking, openness.  Not just in the Arts, in other words, but in everyday life.

    What are the ways to be creative?   Playing, experimenting, finding unconventional solutions to problems, seeing connections, properties, functions and enjoying fixing anything with duct tape.

    Playiing, whether with duct tape or crayons or keyboards or interesting new soups.

    Who gets to be creative?   All of us.  It’s our birthright (and an attitude), right?

    What gets in the way of it?   Often, our culture and education system wanting to train us to do things right.

    And a nice example of creativity gone not amuck but amerry: Have always been enlightened by children,  and most recently at the Earth Day Trash to Treasure table, which I’ve done for years.  This year as always, the kids who stopped were clearly surprised and delighted to have this chance to make (What?) just any wild thing they wanted out of the tons of throwaways. And two kids in particular, 2nd graders, stayed almost an hour transfixed in their elaborate inventions with toilet paper tubes, other paper goods, plastic junk, scissors, tape and glue:  one boy made the most incredible castle, and the other, this fabulous flying dragon!  They were both in some kind of Zone, or Flow, where few words were needed, except maybe “got more tape?”  Real creative time,  just the most wonderful phenomenon.  And it doesn’t need to be rare.

    Some quotes

  • Art is essentially the affirmation, the blessing, and the deification of existence.–Friedrich Nietzsche
  • Art is the proper task of life.–Nietzsche
  • Art is not a thing: it is a way.–Elbert Hubbard
  • The artist is not a different kind of person, but every person is a different kind of artist.–Eric Gill
  • Art is the stored honey of the human soul, gathered on the wings of misery and travail.–Theodore Dreiser
  • The art of life lies in a constant readjustment to our surroundings.–Okakura Kakuyo
  • Art is a human activity, consisting in this, that one man consciously, by means of certain external signs, hands on to others feelings he has lived through, and that other people are infected by these feelings and also experience them.–Leo Tolstoy
  • The business of art lies just in this—to make that understood and felt which, in the form of an argument, might be incomprehensible and inaccessible.–Tolstoy
  • Don’t think. Thinking is the enemy of creativity. It’s self-conscious, and anything self-conscious is lousy. You can’t TRY to do things.  You simply must DO things.—Ray Bradbury
  • True creativity often starts where language ends.—Arthur Koestler



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