I picked up Paul’s Johnson’s book Creators the other day and am enjoying it three years after my first encounter. This is from the opening page:
Creativity, I believe, is inherent in all of us. We are the progeny of almighty God…. He created the universe, and those who inhabit it; and, in creating us, he made us in his own image, so that his personality and capacities, however feebly, are reflected in our minds, bodies, and immortal spirits. So we are, by our nature, creators as well. All of us can, and most of us do, create in one way or another. We are undoubtedly at our happiest when creating, however humbly and inconspicuously.
Johnson mentions some of the many creations humans produce, such as written works, farms, and businesses. Some of these wonderful works are not lasting, though they are valuable for as short as a season or as long as centuries.
Some forms of creativity, no less important, are immaterial as well as transient. One of the most important is to make people laugh. We live in a vale of tears, which begins with the crying of a babe and does not become any less doleful as we age. Humor, which lifts our spirits for a spell, is one of the most valuable of human solaces, and the gift of inciting it rare and inestimable. Whoever makes a new joke, which circulates, translates, globalizes itself, and lives on through generations, perhaps millennia, is a creative genius, and a benefactor of humankind almost without compare.
I transcribed the above about jokes because that form of creativity is worlds removed from anything I can imagine drumming up. I am fascinated by the art of making or even telling jokes; the chapter in Annie Dillard’s An American Childhood in which she relates how her parents worked their art of joke-telling describes an exotic land to which I could never go.
I’m more familiar — quite familiar — with the type of art Johnson also appreciates in this account:
I sometimes talk to a jovial sweeper, who does my street, and who comes from Isfahan, in Persia, wherein lies the grandest and most beautiful square in the world, the work of many architects and craftsmen over centuries, but chiefly of the sixteenth. I asked him if he felt himself creative, and he said, “Oh, yes. Each day they give me a dirty street, and I make it into a clean one, thanks be to God.”