K  A  R  E  N     K  I  E  F  E  R

e s s a y s

We are creative !

     We are all born whole and perfect beings in every way. We breathe in. We feel our heartbeat and our life as an individual creative being in this vast universe begins. We are the newest participants in this long, long history of humanity, embarking on a journey that is driven by our innate life giving creative, thriving, driving force. Just as we instinctually gasp that first breath, so do we all reach out to touch our world, affirming that we indeed, are alive.

Our breath creates wind

Our footsteps create earthquakes

Our touch creates unity

Our ideas create possibilities

Our love creates truth

      Warmth and comfort comes from those who hold us tight, who let us know that are wanted, that we are loved, that we belong.  As human beings we inhabit this place together and are engaged in both life’s constant of creation and destruction, birth and death and restructuring of matter into ever changing forms. There is no stability, there is only growth and decay. From our ability to create new life, to our ability to make, move, and manipulate objects and ideas, to our ability imagine possibilities and project our will, we are instruments of change inside our selves and in our world.  By engaging in these transformations together, our creative forces help further our collective sense of belonging in this ever changing world.

These creative forces are at the root of our ever evolving ability to survive and thrive and find meaning in a world that is always changing in both anticipated and unpredictable ways. We turn to each other for inspiration and support and insight into how to go about living within this ever changing state. As social creatures, we are on this roller coaster of a journey together. Our creative drive insuring our own survival and, together, the survival of our species. By being together, by sharing our abilities and experiences, by seeing through each others eyes, we gain perspectives on our world and insights into ourselves. We are the universe’s way of looking at its self.      


      On this human journey, the ability to observe with openness, stay flexible and nimble, and adjust to change is truly a measure of our ability to remain vibrant and viable. Our ability to share in each others experiences broadens these strengths. The arts provide some of our greatest tools for insight into ourselves and each other and thus are a vital catalyst for growth and adaptation. The world turns and time passes and things change and it is in our blood to not only survive, but to thrive and find great joy and wonder through these changes.

     Our thoughts, behaviors, attitudes and beliefs are powerful tools of manifesting our individual and collective goals. We have the power to focus these qualities like laser beams to affect our future for the very simplest reason that we are meant to.  Goals, dreams, are like bright shining lights leading us through the infinite details of our everyday life.  Being in a creative state sensitizes us to the opportunities that are all around. When we know what we want, the universe always provides a way. It is the path of the artist to explore this natural relationship through the creative process. On a very deep level, we create the experiences of our life for reasons sometimes obvious, but most often with great mystery and drama. Experiences are the measure of our goals because they show us , in retrospect, what we really did intend. Descartes said “ A life unexamined is a life not worth living”.  Art is both experiencing and examining our lives.

When our goals, or the context of our goals, naturally shift and change and grow, so do the infrastructures of our life that support them. So it is absolutely vital to experiencing joy, our natural state of being, that we embrace life as what we like to call, “The big let go”. It is a balancing act between feeling and learning and collecting experiences and abilities, and letting these tools evolve as our needs change. Within our own lifetimes we adapt our perceptions of who we are and what has happened as we grow. Likewise there are times when society lets go of old ideas in the face of change. Today, contrary to times in our past, we hold true that a woman’s place is not just in the home, and it is good for children to be both seen and heard. Corset’s, lobotomies, asbestos, blood letting, and bound feet are not great for bodies, and people of different backgrounds are all equally and beautifully human. Simple examples, but all effective in showing that despite our best of intentions, humans have needed to adapt their beliefs and behaviors over time as their societies and environments have evolved. Change is as natural as it is difficult.  For such a constant in our lives, its funny that we resist is so! Imagination is one of our greatest tools for embracing and celebrating change and art is one of our greatest tools for tapping into our imaginations, to seeing into our futures, and to understanding what needs to grow or change or be moved beyond.

And yes, emotions are tools.  They are the radio beacons that  lead to the creation of what is to come. Learning to harness the power of emotions as a tool for creativity is the key to the kingdom. Learning that how we feel in the present effects what we create, and thus what is to come, is the biggest shift humanity is now experiencing. Rather than being influenced emotionally by circumstance, the artist learns that how he or she is being is in fact what he or she is creating. There is only truth present in art. Surrendering to this beautiful quality and learning to love and accept who we are moment to moment, celebrating and forgiving and letting go, is our life’s work.

     Death, like birth, is a universal experience of change. How we perceive this dramatic, yet entirely predictable, event in all of our life journeys is the one element that affects so much of how we live our lives. This big unknown, unpredictable yet anticipated finale has spurred as many theories of meanings and destinies as there are stars in the sky. For human kind, it seems that there is a thirst to have answers to the big questions; why are we here, what comes after, what does it all mean? These elusive and somewhat unanswerable products of our consciousness,  in art are celebrated rather than feared. They serve to inspire us to view life and the world around us with cherished attention to detail. It has been said that god lives in the details. Art celebrates this love of details at it’s core. When we live with art in our lives, we live with our eyes and hearts open to  the infinite lessons and possibilities and opportunities offered in every detail and every moment. Art does not necessarily provide answers, it is about creating intimacy with our world and each other.

     Art is about being fully awake. It’s the courageous willingness to trust that all experiences are good. There is just so much to see and explore in every day and every moment. From changes in light to changes in moods. Intimate relationships and people that come and go. Subtle shifts in our dreamscapes. Our bodies interaction with gravity and space and time. The comings and goings of political forces that impact us all on a grand scale. Even the cycles of the moon and our planets placement among the stars and our own galaxy and how high the grass grows on the longest summer day impact who we each are in every changing moment.  There are infinite details to experience, and infinite ways these things move us to who we are, here and now.  Being truly alive is so much an exercise in delicate sensitivity. The more we are able to experience of the world, the more context we have in which to see ourselves. This introspection, and this exploration of the workings of our world inside and outside ourselves are the priceless gift that art provides us.


     If there is a constant, it is our search for meaning.  A question often discussed in spiritual terms, art offers an important manifestation of these, our spiritual journeys. Art is the opposite of addiction.  We all know that being alive  is an intense journey. Addictions come in infinite forms and offer us ways to dull this intensity. They serve to ease the experience of our struggles, to take the edge off.  In contrast, art serves to sharpen the intensity into even greater focus. Within these definitions we can apply just about any human endeavor. The differential factor is intent. What purpose do our actions serve?  It requires a dialogue, a consciousness, to remain aware of the impact of our actions. Smoking can be an art form as much as painting can be an addiction. It is not a simple matter of genre’s. It is about staying awake in the experience. Art is not easy. It may be the most difficult path for us to travel because it requires this aweness.  It so honestly reflects who we are. Art does not just imitate life, art is life.  It gives us the tools to honestly find our own meaning throughout each of our vastly different and unique life experiences.  If anything, art teaches us that answers are infinite and personal, and the only right answers are the ones that clearly embrace the subjectivity of the individual. Art teaches us to pursue our own truths, and to trust that these truths are constantly being revealed in the details of our experience.  

Creativity is the uniquely spiritual experience where we can find such great joy in witnessing ourselves manifesting life itself. In an image, a song, a mathematical equation, an idea; we can experience first hand, “I am”. To make something is as natural and fundamental to humans as breathing. It is the closest thing to proof that we have that we do in fact exist, which is a highly debatable statement in and of its self.  Our greatest evidence of our own existence can be found in two experiences; art and love. These two manifestations of the human spirit are our best measure of meaning and belonging. Through art and love we are given context to experience our selves and each other.

     This connection of art and love in the context of ego is a fundamental part of the story. How interesting to explore the idea of creativity as it relates to our egos, or our distinction of ourselves in the context of our environment including each other. It is said that a person with a big ego is one who thinks of himself as having great importance in the world around him. Yet we also think of a lack of ego in positive light. How did we come to these paradoxical perceptions? Perhaps we are a bit confused when it comes to this sense of I. So far we have discussed the role art and creativity positively play in strengthening this sense of self. It is an obvious connection that both the process’ and products of creativity would contribute to our egos.  The truth is , it serves to both strengthen our sense of importance, and simultaneously eliminate it!  We would like to take this association of creativity and ego to a more esoteric, challenging, and ultimately paradoxical place. We propose that there are great benefits to be reaped when the boundaries that define our separateness are dissolved and an awareness of our roles as a part of a collective whole are celebrated. Exploring the ideas of collective creativity and collective consciousness can ultimately lead to a way of living that is more authentically centered around love.

To look at art as the ultimate manifestation of love is a powerful and beautiful task. While some associations may seem obvious, it is worthwhile to trace a path of connections to help illustrate the idea. We think of love as emotions and feelings and actions that express empathy, compassion, caring, and trust. It is obvious that our arts often truthfully represent these qualities. When we create art ourselves, and when we experience the art of others, we are able to connect within our shared humanity. The irony is that when we allow our creativity to define ourselves in a way that strengthens our egos , it simultaneously serves to say in the simplest terms that we are  separate from each other while striving to bring us together.  This may seem like a subtle matter of attitude, but left un-addressed, it can lead to insidious jealously, competition, and other harmful pitfalls of fear driven living.

     With this thread we are lead to a very important revelation; the opposite of love is not hate, it is fear. This relatively newly expressed awareness, a gem of modern psychology, has vibrantly brought light into our darkest, and scariest hidden closets and has exposed  superficial emotions like hatred and jealously to be  covers for deeper underlying fears. Simmered down, we are ultimately left with a fear of death and a fear of being alone; the identical twins of our deepest, darkest, scariest places.  Isn’t it interesting that art could potentially reinforce the latter by encouraging us to see ourselves as individuals, better or worse, different, and in the end separate?

     With this discussion we hope to encourage our readers to consider their whole creative potential in all its complexities. We strive to act always out of love and not fear.  It is a simple, yet powerful dialogue to help negotiate our way through the infinite gray areas of life.  Great peacefulness is possible when one is willing to look underneath the loud distractions of surface emotions and into the deeper, more vulnerable fears, combined with a willingness to abandon the desire to define ones self by one’s accomplishments. The sacrifice of sharing our sense of accomplishments is rewarded a thousand times over when a true sense of belonging can be experienced.  By recognizing that what we contribute is both a manifestation of our unique self, and is also an illusion of this self, we can come to a higher level of art and love.

     We introduced this chapter with our birth into individuality and our quest to find meaning together on this independent journey of life. What if we were to expand upon our definition of ego, dissolve its borders, and see our individuality as a part of a collective whole? What if we were able to celebrate each others accomplishments as our own, and our own accomplishments as manifestations of our collective consciousness? It would serve to lessen the role of I AM and strengthen the role of WE ARE. It would also be a step towards a more meaningful experience of LOVE. In our musings we have thus far taken on the fear of death and the fear of being alone through art. Is there any obstacle that our creativity and our art cannot surmount?

     As artists, parents, leaders, and art educators it is vital that we truly appreciate these deeper roles of creativity in our lives. No life is extra. No one person’s creativity can be overlooked or diminished in value. It is our premise that our current cultural approach to art must be turned upside down in our quest to live fully creative and meaningful lives. We believe that our humanness, and our creativity lay at the center of all our experiences, and that all disciplines: sciences and mathematics and languages and histories, find their greatest impact when distilled through the arts.  It is not to say that art is more important than any other discipline. Rather, this approach holds our value as human beings above that of our products, knowledge, and discoveries. Our arts are where we find the soul of our accomplishments. And quite often our greatest discoveries come through our most creative process of asking open ended questions and being willing to find answers in unpredictable places. Creativity is human. It is our way of being in the world.  Art allows us to keenly experience the distillation of all that we accomplish in meaningful ways that bring us always back to our humanness. At the center of our discoveries, we are able to most joyfully celebrate what it is to be alive.

     But don’t worry. We won’t be floating around in this vital, yet challengingly abstract, philosophical place for the whole book. As dramatic and elusive sounding our introduction, the information and methods we will be exploring will very much come from strong, knowledgeable, practical, and experienced hands. But please remember as you read through this book that all actions are grounded by these deeper motivations.  It is so important because we as a culture need to be engaging are whole selves in a more fearless and dynamic and liberated ways. The cutting of arts budgets, marginalizing of arts programs as extra curricular, and a tradition of an elitist attitude about fine arts have left us to suffer greatly in our sense of meaning and belonging. It is our goal with this book that you will approach your own arts and art education programs you may create or support with a deeply invigorated and heartfelt sense of importance. It is our premise that the world would be a better place if each and every person were able to manifest their greatest creative potential. It is our belief that empowering people to know and exercise their creativity will lead to a more harmonious and prosperous world for all. If we are to pursue our greatest potentials without a fear of failure, with a trust that fully engages in manifesting our experiences as always good, then we will truly be making this world a better place. This book is about changing the way we all live in the world from one that feels overwhelmingly complex and expansive to one that we all can make a meaningful difference in. There is no higher aspiration.