Can creativity help us survive a digital yet disconnected world?

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Column by Peter Wullf

If you google millennials and anxiety, you will find thousands of articles stating that the latest generations are the most depressed and anxious in history. It seems like we have reached a point in which we are so stressed and bombarded by the infinite information available to us every day. This, in my opinion is a problem that concerns all generations. As soon as we enter the digital world (which is filled with mostly irrelevant content), we start worrying about everything and nothing.

And just like that, we flee into a world filled with meditation and mindfulness techniques, because deep down we know that we are in constant need of being intoxicated by digital recognition. Our addictions with drugs such as sugar, caffeine, alcohol, or illegal substances are reflections of a lack of connection with ourselves and others – even if we’re always connected digitally. How come the distance between us seems greater than ever, when all it takes to communicate with one another is a few taps or clicks?

I won’t bore you with explanations on why I think social media can be harmful. Who knows? Maybe we allow the spectrum of our emotions to be dictated by the number of likes we get, the youtube videos we watch, the clothes we wear, or the concerts we go to. I personally want to wake up and feel like I’ve got a purpose in life, and feel that I’m working on something that requires energy, commitment, and creativity. Maybe that is what we all want. We have an inkling that we’re not just here to experience a life that is predictable and narrow.. We want to feel like we have a purpose, and I think we should chase that ambition. But why should we dive into the ocean of colours, music, and paintings?

Before we start, let’s all look at what role creativity plays in the exploration of our psyche? When expressing ourselves creatively, we’re enabled to enter a space that allows us to find a breath of fresh air of the mind, to raise our heads above the drowning waters of this globalized world. We enter this flow state by immersing ourselves fully into the poem we’re writing, or the painting we’re creating. By doing so, we channel our focused attention into the work at hand. We humans will find ourselves in this state of mind when we’re presented with a difficult task while having the tools to overcome it. This state of mind is not limited to working with creativity – many people enter flow by running, often referred to as “the runners high.” What is essential here is to find an activity that helps us enter this state, not which activity we’re doing

As we find ourselves in this flowing headspace of creation, we’ll probably not even be aware of it, because we’re so engaged in what we’re doing. Minutes can feel like hours and hours like minutes. Everything but the work disappears, even the sense of self seems like a distant memory. By allowing the entire world to disappear into the back of our minds, we give life perspective and contrast. Maybe the problems of life will seem less unbearable and miserable if we have access to a state of mind in which they have no meaning: where they cease to exist.

There’s a reason why humans are drawn towards creative work. I think it is a reflection of our sincere desire to reach an ideal. I believe that our desire of wanting to create the perfect piece of art is a projection of the immortal human desire of wanting to be perfect, and oddly enough, working towards this ideal in the physical realm will manifest itself as psychological development. Likewise, our mental development will manifest itself in our ability to create something which aims to be perfect. 

In my experience, a sense of wonder and mystical uncertainty fills my life, the more I engage in my curiosities, and get in tune with my creativity. So do yourself a favor, and maybe start putting effort into actively seeking that thing that makes you want to go above and beyond, the passion that will grow in a harmonic relationship with the effort you put into it. Passions are much more than the product that we produce – passions are the playgrounds of the development of ourselves; no project is completed without the spark of curiosity, excitement, wonder, disappointment, and fulfillment.

Maybe your passion hasn’t appeared to you yet, even though you’ve been looking and dearly hoping to find one. There may be two potential causes for this: 

Reason 1: your lack of self-esteem has handicapped you to the point of not trying out new things because of the fear of a mental monolith known as a failure, thereby not discovering the things that make you feel fulfilled. This goes back to making you feel more worthless because in your mind, your life has no value nor purpose. It’s a spiral. But a spiral that works upwards as well, if you take the initial decision to make a change.

Reason number 2: you haven’t found your purpose because you don’t stick with the things that make the embers of creativity glow in your stomach. Let’s say that you’re really interested in art, and want to start painting, but the first-ever painting you make, doesn’t turn out to be this abstract, detailed and profoundly touching work of art that you expected it to be, and neither does the next one, or the next one. Do you see how you undermine yourself by having the idea of being a master from day one? Do you even want to be the best from day one? What if the value of the act lies in the personal and artistic development, rather than in the product itself? 

To believe that you’ll achieve artistic perfection, reach the ideal and touch the sky which Dalí and Van Gogh graced, in your first week of painting is a horrible delusion and one which will make you feel like a failure again and again.

So maybe if we start using our lives as a canvas, we will be able to make the details of this piece of art to be the deep and thorough contemplation and refinement of our habits and behavior. So that once we are nearing the end of our lives, we can look at what we have created with joy and contentment.

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