The Courage To Create (pdf) by Rollo May
ALL MY LIFE I have been haunted by the fascinating questions of creativity. Why does an original idea in science and in art “pop up” from the unconscious at a given moment? What is the relation between talent and the creative act, and between creativity and death? Why does a mime or a dance give us such delight? How did Homer, confronting something as gross as the Trojan War, fashion it into poetry which became a guide for the ethics of the whole Greek civilization?
I have asked these questions not as one who stands on the sidelines, but as one who himself participates in art and science. I ask them out of my own excitement, for example, at watching two of my colors on a paper merge into an unpredictable third color. Is it not the distinguishing characteristic of the human being that in the hot race of evolution he pauses for a moment to paint on the cave walls at Lascaux or Altamira those brown-and-red deer and bison which still fill us with amazed admiration and awe? Suppose the apprehension of beauty is itself a way to truth? Suppose that “elegance”—as the word is used by physicists to describe their discoveries —is a key to ultimate reality? Suppose Joyce is right that the artist creates “the uncreated conscience of the race”?
These chapters are a partial record of my ponderings. They had their birth as lectures given at colleges and universities. I had always hesitated to publish them because they seemed incomplete—the mystery of creation still remained. I then realized that this “unfinished” quality would always remain, and that it is a part of the creative process itself. This realization coincided with the fact that many people who had heard the lectures urged that they be published.
The title was suggested by Paul Tillich’s The Courage to Be, a debt I am glad to acknowledge. But one cannot be in a vacuum. We express our being by creating. Creativity is a necessary sequel to being. Furthermore, the word courage in my title refers, beyond the first few pages of the first chapter, to that particular land of courage essential for the creative act. This is rarely acknowledged in our discussions of creativity and even more rarely written about.
I want to express my gratitude to several friends who have read all or part of the manuscript and have discussed it with me: Ann Hyde, Magda Denes, and Elinor Roberts.
More than is usually the case, this book was a delight to compile, for it gave me cause to ponder all these questions over again. I only hope the book gives as much pleasure to the reader as it did to me in the compiling of it.
The Courage to Create
The Nature of Creativity
Creativity and the Unconscious
Creativity and Encounter
The Delphic Oracle as Therapist
On the Limits of Creativity
Passion for Form
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