Sunday, August 8, 2010

Too Much Necessity Kills Invention

It is said that necessity is the mother of inventions; but too much necessity can also kill innovation. It is not just that the struggle for survival can limit the time and energy available for creativity; beyond that which can produce immediate material benefit. It is also who we become emotionally and spiritually when our survival is threatened over an extended period of time; for example, what happens to people who become long term unemployed during economic recession. That experience can induce a chronic state of fear and inhibition that kills hope and higher aspirations.

The psychic damage can probably be seen best after a person regains a foothold out of a desperate and chronic economic need, and finds a job. It is then tempting to create a religion out of economic security and to kill any surviving remnants of a dream. But it is important that we recognize the danger and fight for spiritual integrity and wholeness as a human being; to not be dominated by fear, anger and cynicism, but to remain open-hearted and hopeful, despite the pain that we have experienced.

The Biblical statement that we do not live by bread alone is not just religious dogma. We require hope and dreams, as well as material sustenance, in order to live as full human beings, rather than merely as creatures driven by necessity. If we allow ourselves to become the latter, a part of us will fester and die.

In my framework, innovation is one of the seven dimensions of wisdom; seven sets of skills or competencies necessary for a fulfilling life. It is the process through which our dreams and creativity are converted into activities and things that produces value for other people. In other words, our internal creative life is connected to social and material life of communities of which we are part. It is the need and right of every human being, not just the preserve of a privileged few. It includes both freedom and connection with others. The opposite is wage slavery, where we subordinate our humanity in order to eat and survive. We may have to do that, but we should never accept it as our destiny. We have the right to be free and to be part of community.

The struggle for freedom begins in the Self, the first dimension of freedom. Being self-aware, and therefore recognizing our need for freedom, creative expression, as well as for connection, encourages us to resist the temptation to give up the dream, regardless of our material circumstances. It is better to live with the heartache of awareness of a dream deferred, than to live in anesthetized or cynical surrender.

The dream is Purpose, another dimension of wisdom. Purpose does not deny material necessity, but ever seeks to subsume it under a greater vision; a vision that is both personal and communal, and even transcendent. This is not self-inflation, but the experienced truth of who we are as human beings. We are stardust as well as earth.