“We may imagine perhaps that creation was finished long ago.  This is not true.  It continues more gloriously than ever. . . and we serve to complete it, even with the humblest work of our hands.”                                          Teilhard du Chardin

Human creativity is a fascinating topic, and the subject of much research.  Where do people get ideas?  Or the curiosity and perseverance that has them working long hours on their craft?   In what kinds of environments does creativity thrive?  How is it supported by others in a community who are perhaps not so obviously creative, as they go about their humble chores in society?  A society has to have the resources to support artists.

In the case of craft, you need to have the tools of the trade available.  Pens and brushes, ink and paint, carving tools and computers, yarn and needles.  We need raw materials from the earth’s resources, designers and manufacturers in factories, marketing and transportation links.  The computer I am writing on is a product of collaboration that goes back many years.

Inspiration itself means breath, which implies that we receive from outside ourselves, and many creative people prepare by being receptive to the Divine.  We acknowledge that our resources are limited.    We allow time so that the unconscious mind incubates and contributes with insights that often appear to come out of the blue.

Creativity appears to increase as we interact with others in art, technology, or science, ideas begetting more ideas exponentially.    In theatre or other group dynamics, iron sharpens iron, and giftedness of one enhances the giftedness of the other.  It’s been noted that often inventions arise simultaneously in different parts of the world, once the building blocks that allow new combinations are discovered and shared.  If, for example, you had a limited number of letter blocks to use for your vocabulary, even the addition of one letter would make possible thousands of new words.  In the same way new theories open up more avenues of exploration.

One generation passes down their knowledge to the next.  When we were children living in rural Ontario, we could attend the local 4H Club (Head/Heart/Hands/Health), which offered both social connection and the opportunity to learn farm skills.  There were volunteers at school who taught knitting and sewing, and I have fond memories of the neighbour who, with painstaking patience, taught me how to crochet.

We need the encouragement of others because often there’s a discrepancy between the genius of our idea and its reality.  There is the fear that the incarnation of your imagination will prove to be insignificant or even paltry once exposed to the real world.

But it’s important not to give up.  The creation of a functioning machine may require many failed attempts, but sometimes these “mistakes” open doors to all kinds of new possibilities.  In small ways and in small steps, we can make a contribution to the wellbeing of the world.


“May the favour of the Lord our God rest upon us; establish the work of our hands for us – yes, establish the work of our hands.”                          Psalm 90:17




“Now must you cast off sloth,” my master said, “sitting on feather cushions or stretched out under comforters, no one comes to fame.”
Virgil to Dante, Canto 24, Purgatorio (Hollander)

“Nothing epic happens on the couch,” said my cousin’s son, Arie Hoogerbrugge, as he set off to cycle across the continent one bleak November day in 2019.  He has  crossed Canada east to west and is now on his way to the southernmost point of Argentina. See his website at

And he’s right.  Computer gaming is a poor imitation of the breathless risk-taking of a real-life quest.  A pilgrim journeying on the Santiago discovers not only the trail, but much about himself and human nature in general.

Still, the unknown frontier may not be purely physical.  As the philosopher Seneca noted, “We suffer more often in imagination than in reality.”  As we explore our own hearts and minds, we encounter many fears and obstacles. We get bogged down on backroads, enter dark chasms of confusion, procrastinate for fear of failure.  We encounter parts of ourselves we would dearly like to disown, but that clearly seem to have the commitment to dog us throughout life.  Some of these shadows have little substance, but others take advantage of our unique vulnerability.

When we plan a journey, it’s important to make provision and also to calculate timing.  Dante’s version of aged Ulysses’ doomed voyage to the Pillars of Hercules, is a stern warning.  There is a “seize the day,” but also the time to recognize different times call for different types of journeys.

Life generally does a pretty good job of making us face reality, but also in revealing true friendship.     As Arie has found along the way, there will be challenges, but there will also be many encouraging and hospitable people.

So  let’s get up off the couch and be on our way!  While our journeys may not be epic, it may need an epic struggle to discipline oneself.   Learn a new language, practice that piano, tour your own town to name a few options that I’ve seen people pursue in lockdown.   You will be richly rewarded both in the journey and in the goal of your quest.


The Common Touch

“One who puts on his armour should not boast like one who
takes it  off.”                    I Kings 20:21

Generations of our family have played this Rummikub board game, and its box is somewhat dilapidated.  Grandparent and grandchild alike can enjoy manipulating the tiles in strategic ways.    Because of COVID, we’ve recently moved to an online version.  Amazing that, even though we’re hundreds of miles apart, we can play and interact on Facetime at the same time.

Unfortunately, from our standpoint, even though our grandchildren are under ten years old, we are losing more often than we win.   We should be able to take that with a modicum of grace and equilibrium because, after all, these winning grandkids are our progeny.

The other day, however, our little grandson, who turned five only a few months ago, graciously offered Grandma the option for a  little assistance.  “You can let Grandpa help you,” he said to me, kindly.  Ouch!

The writing is on the wall, because from where we are, our mental agility isn’t likely to improve.  However, maybe there are still lessons we could teach them.   For example, how to lose graciously?  How to win humbly?

In many movie scripts, the young characters are tested over the course of an epic journey.  Initially they think they’ve got everything figured out, and clearly feel they know more about the world than their elders do. But eventually this unearned bravado is met by the reality of battle.  It’s a necessary process on the way to seasoned maturity.

Life is a great teacher of real wisdom.   If you are willing to learn, lessons are available from everyone in your life, whether they are “winners” or “losers.” Each of us has something to share from our experience.   Youth naively believes that they can go out and conquer all obstacles.    We understand there has to be something of that attitude even to attempt the challenges, and pray that they will persevere even if there will inevitably be times when they fail.

“If you can make one heap of all your winnings
And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings
And never breathe a word about your loss;
. . . . 

If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
Or walk with kings – nor lose the common touch;
If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you;
If all men count with you, but none too much;

If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run –
Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,
And – which is more – you’ll be a Man, my son!”

From “If,” by Rudyard Kipling