Making Meaning

November 28, 2013

In a sense, all creativity is a process of giving meaning to what is on a universal scale meaningless. The plant and the poet and the gardener collect these disparate, disorganized raindrops, sun rays, passing birds and make something formal. Creativity gives form to what is in nature ambiguous, suggestive. Language wasn’t there at the beginning. It was created after people had gone through all sorts of experiences and needed to become expressive in order to give meaning to life. – Stanley Kunitz

How can we collect the disparate in our own lives and make meaning? This is the creative opportunity that is pushed upon us by tough times or conflict. What am I to make of the lost job, relationship or possible adventure? How am I to craft a new vessel from the broken pieces of the earlier boat that was ravaged in the storms of disputes and unforeseen circumstances?

Read this blog enough and you’ll figure out that I am an art junkie. Here’s an installation in the Seattle Tacoma international airport named “On Matter, Monkeys and the King,”created with found objects. 

This “kinetic” sculpture by Trimpin self propels along a track within this enclosure.  I love the creative possibilities that appear after an artist has had her way with leftover lumber orgarbage on a beach. How can we see ourselves as everyday artists? As I beach comb my inner landscape I wonder, what might we as everyday artists make by combining global warming, the expanding Internet, more humans than ever before and the miniaturization of technology?

One of my dearest friends is a professional mosaicist. Walk with her anywhere and learn how to see the disparate pieces as potential elements of a great new mosaic. That rock I stumbled upon has potential. The broken branch that caught my sleeve holds beauty and opportunity. Egg shells left over from breakfast make a gorgeous background. She calls me through her joy and discipline to see my own life in a more productive way.

What are the disparate pieces that are calling for your creativity this week? How can we make meaning of what trips us up and catches our sleeve?

Deidre Combs

Deidre Combs is the author of three books on cross-cultural approaches to resolving conflict and overcoming challenges:  The Way of ConflictWorst Enemy, Best Teacher  and Thriving Through Tough Times. The books integrate perennial wisdom from the world’s lasting cultural traditions with systems theory and brain research.

Dr. Combs is a management consultant, executive coach, mediator and core instructor in Montana State University’s Leadership Fellows Certificate Program and Columbia University’s Teacher’s College Global Competence Certificate Program. Since 2007, she has also taught intensive leadership training to State Department-selected students, teachers and professional leaders from throughout the Middle East, Africa, Asia, Eurasia, Latin America and Pakistan’s FATA region.

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