Faith seeking understanding, my personal journey towards a deeper knowledge of and intimacy with God, the cosmos, humanity and myself through thoughts, words and (occasionally) images, is a series of [hopefully] daily reflections I’m writing with the purpose of publishing something on a regular basis for others to read, either here, at joncarllewis.com or among my writings at Medium.com.
I’ve been listening to the audiobook version of Twyla Tharp’s The Creative Habit: Learn It and Use It for Life. I recognize and resonate with much of what she has been saying about creating rituals to lure oneself into creative work. This is good advice for any creative undertaking. But Tharp makes note of a piece of wisdom I hadn’t heard before. Admitting that she is the type of person who divides the world into two types, she defined two overarching ways of seeing the world, one up close and detail oriented, and one from a distance, taking in a broad sweep.
Tharp identified these two ways of seeing the world with two Greek terms which are both translated “life”, but which have very different meanings. Zoë (ζωή in Greek) she identifies with the broad sweep, it’s definition lending itself to a never-ending experience of life that flows from thing to thing and goes on for the ages. Bios (βίος in Greek) she identifies with the particular, the type of life that seems bounded by a lifespan and focuses on the particular. I found the Greek lesson interesting, but then Tharp went on to assign each of these terms to a particular type of creative vision.
Tharp claims that it is difficult for one person to have both types of creative visions; she writes that one usually has either a detail-oriented viewpoint or a big-picture viewpoint. As an example, she maintains that the choreographer George Balanchine and photographer Ansel Adams tended towards the overarching, the zoë end of the spectrum (interesting that I think of them as a spectrum), and that a very detail-oriented choreographer like Jerome Robbins tended towards the bios end.
The reason she introduced these terms and this concept, it seems, is to help us locate where we are, to understand our own, unique creative vision and where we tend naturally to go. Tharp said that it is unusual for a painter to work both in miniatures and murals; she implied that it is useful to know which we are as we set out to create.
I would certainly want to know where I fell, where my natural inclinations are. It seems it would save me some time and a whole lot of grief. Rather than rush to a type, however, I will ponder these differing creative visions and differing concepts of life, itself, and see to which pole I am naturally drawn. Nevertheless, I have my suspicions.
Can you guess which way I tend?
And, more importantly, which are you?
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May God richly bless you on your journey.