Selfishness – Our Poor Attitude

I am not going to dissect physiological selfishness within this post, for it is clearly beyond the scope of one post. What I would like to do is simply deal with self-ishness as it relates to creation, creating, and the creator. To understand our God, the Creator, and look at His creation, it is important to study the process and relationships of the creative process. There is indeed a link between the creator and his creation; I believe it has to do with the part of “self” that ends within the created object. High quality, timeless, creation (not just your basic problem-solving) but something of a special “museum-rated” quality, goes much deeper into the creator. Haven’t you heard the saying: “Put a little soul in it”? To most, this is just so many words about making an effort, but I propose that this timeless creation has exactly that in it…a little of your soul, a little of your life’s essence. There is, however, a danger of crossing the line…the line between putting yourself into the creation for the glory of the creation (“Let us make man in Our image”, Genesis 1:26), and putting yourself into you for the glory of yourself (pure self-ishness).

Why is it that man will often put-down and denounce innovation and creativity? Is it because of jealousy? Is it the change that is associated with innovation that scares people? I think people are mad at themselves, upset that they didn’t have the answers; they often feel that they don’t have the creativity within themselves to do the same. It seems to inflate or build up the criticizer (an ego thing) if he or she can denounce the creator or his creation. Saying, “that sure is a dumb idea” extends the position that you are smart enough to recognize that fact. The “put-down” is a way people seek to regain control over others.

All the great architects, artists, and filmmakers stood alone and were ridiculed by people of lesser vision. The importance of the created object by the creator was far too powerful to let the unknowing deter their paths by a watered-down and compromised pseudo-intellectual thought. A gang can come together for a given purpose, get the job done and move on to some other focus; but the real creator is a capable solitary innovative mind more focused on the creation than self. I know some of you reading this will say, “Wrong! The drive for that lone creator, that solitary mind is all about “ego” and not about any focus on the object of creation.” It is all about “self” you’ll say. Our society has put down “ego” as a bad thing because of a gross misunderstanding of what ego means. I’ve heard architects who should know something about creativity put down the Great Master…Frank Lloyd Wright for being egotistical, when it was ego that was the “muscle” that allowed him to conquer ridicule. Let’s first look at some definitions to help us be accurate; first “ego” and then “arrogance”; read carefully and compare the two.

ego – “the self, the individual as aware of himself, experiences the external world through the senses and consciously controls the impulses” …intuitive

arrogance – “full of or due to unwarranted pride and self-importance, overbearing, haughty”

It is my contention that these innovative and creative people must have ego; it is the “engine” that drives a person forward when all those around him are staying stop or “you can’t do that”. The ego is also the shield to protect those people as they found themselves out on the edge, charting new ground in a sea of hostility. Look at the “ego” definition again, it is an individual aware of self but within a larger context; it is not inward and selfish. Being aware of self is simply knowing one’s limitations and abilities for you to be able to use “the best tools for the job”; a craftsman knows which tool to pick up to do a particular job. Now, notice the definition of “arrogance”, the key words are:

full”…there is no room for anything else, nothing or nobody can get in; this often blocks new serendipity from being realized.

unwarranted”…there is no justification for the person’s attitude or position; most often what is visible in the person has not been earned.

self-importance”…manufactured self-worth and self-value; the drive to do something is purely inward and does not acknowledge a larger context.

Overbearing”…this is a protection mechanism for these people, a haughty overbearing attitude most often hides the inner insecurity and shallowness of the person; it keeps others from getting too close to see the truth.

Please don’t criticize a creative person, such as an artist, musician, or architect, as being egotistical when you mean arrogance. Ego allows the forceful decision making necessary for creative invention…do you think every new thought came about by some wishy-washy wet dishrag pea-brain afraid of making a decision, trying to decide whether he was right or not? No! New thought, ideas and solutions come about by one solid strong person having the guts to stand by his conviction after careful study and reflection; an individual aware of self but always within the larger context beyond self. Timeless solutions are never reckless.

God, the Master Architect Creator, created you and me, and created us to be creative; we are created in the image of God. We can and should use our God-given talents as a celebration to the wonderful gifts lovingly bestowed on us by God; to not do this and not give thanks for the blessing is to reject God. It was God who has granted you a confidence; a confidence that you can “go and do likewise”…that is, go and be a creative being…but in what larger context you say? The context we are to work within is not some socialistic utopia but simply it is to work to and for the glory of God. Although a person with ego can “miss the mark” (the definition of sin), it is this confidence in God and this larger purpose, the “ego engine” will empower us to run the uphill race.

What We Can Learn From Wally, Part-2

They welcomed me as the father welcomed his long lost son in Jesus’ Parable of the Prodigal Son (Luke 15:11-32). I could not help but compare this amazing experience with what my experiences were to this point in my life, growing up in affluent neighborhoods, where you often met hostility and arrogant demands. It was in this same affluent neighborhood that I once threw newspapers as a young kid. I was good at throwing papers; I could walk down the middle of the street and place the paper near each door, except for one house. One lady wanted her paper to be exactly adjacent to the wall (not 1” away from the wall), but next to the wall. It also had to be within 1” of the end of her door as it was opened, not 2”, but less than 1” was okay as long as she could open the door without hitting the end of the newspaper and knocking it out of position. If it wasn’t perfect, if her reach was one inch longer, I got a filed complaint.

 Arrogant demands don’t just occur in affluent neighborhoods, but also seem to be the norm in neighborhoods of the angry poor. Actually, I believe money has nothing to do with it; this is a matter of what you give or what you take. We’re talking attitude; attitude that you indeed can control…if you want to. Ask yourself, do you take away from others to benefit yourself? Parasite vines can strangle a tree. Or, do you provide shade and structure [comfort] for those around you, whether family or stranger? Let’s get back to “my schooling” at Wally’s home to see how his parents can also teach us all something.

 My growing period in this environment in Cuba, New Mexico, was not yet over; we headed up the family’s mountain…it was their mountain! We came to a little one room shack, a hand-me-down shack used by the family’s many generations that went before. It was a shack with no plumbing or much of anything for that matter. It was built of exposed wood studs with no insulation (did I mention it was wintertime in the mountains?), studs only covered with loose wood siding, some of it missing as I could see trees through the wall. There were a few windows, all with no glass in the frames, and sort of a shingle roof with a great view of the stars as I would discover later lying in bed. Before we turned in for the evening, we had to put up anything metallic. When I inquired why, Wally told me, pack rats. They would carry away anything of metal; wonderful, now I’m sharing a shack with rats!