Adam Blatner

Words and Images from the Mind of Adam Blatner

Keep Believing, Keep Pretending

Originally posted on December 27, 2013

There is a little verse is at the end of the 1980s Muppet Movie in which the melody of the Rainbow Connection is once again sung as a reprise: “Life’s like a movie, write your own ending.
Keep believing, keep pretending.
We’ve done just what we set out to do,
Just like the lovers, the dreamers, and you.”

It’s not in what most folks know as the lyrics to this song. But I am impressed with this injunction to keep pretending; it’s for me a way of reminding us to return our deeper roots. We shift focus away from that which is created to the process of creativity itself, which in turn involves us, our psychology, the elements of warming-up and opening to inspiration.

There’s a tendency in the workings of the unconscious mind that once an idea comes to be focused on, it’s as if that idea is it, it’s sufficient, it’s the baby crying to be fed. There’s an insistence that it be treated as final. This unconscious tendency does indeed foster efforts to develop the aforementioned idea. But what tends to get forgotten in this flurry of more emotion than thought is that the creative process itself is even more important.

The trick, then, is to allow yourself to operate on two levels. One attends to what has been created, which includes the inner image of the goal, and also the illusion that whatever progress has been made is impressive. The other point to remember though is that whatever the idea is, however compelling it seems, it’s entirely possible—indeed, probable — that in time you or someone else will come up with an improvement. The trick is to continue to encourage the creative process, even though there’s an unconscious temptation to cling to whatever gains have been made.

In other words, the mind tends to become over-protective of whatever it has come up with, even to the point of becoming defensive, denigrating others’ creativity, inhibiting one’s own curiosity in asking, “Can I create something even better?” or “What improvements might be made?”

In other words, the instinctive response of the unconscious mind is to conserve what has been created, or what has been learned. However, with a little conscious effort, the lure of creating something better, valuing the ongoing creative process and the identity of the self as an ongoing creator, perhaps new creativity can be sustained.

In a subtle way, this is a moral skill? Expanding the field, what if a great deal of cultural inertia,  stagnation and decay is due to a lack of renewal by new ideas? This is the liberal argument. On the other hand, the conservative argument is good, too.  A lot of what is touted as new is foolish, and a fair amount is an old way in a new package with others at the helm. It makes good sense to bring a critical attitude and a skeptical idea at what is proposed. In Jungian terms, this whole conflict is archetypal—it represents the “Senex” complex—the “old man,” versus the “Puer” complex, the impetuous boy. In fact, both are needed—stability and creativity, and which idea gets implemented or not is often a complex process.

Not every creative idea is good. A fair percentage of new ideas are problematic. Some creative ideas seem shiny and attractive but in the actual delivery are awful. There’s a germ of truth to some others, and they might work, but they’ll need a good deal of tweaking. The moral here is persistence. Non-defensiveness is also good.

All this is to offer a balanced and rather cosmic re-framing of what evolution is about, and applying this creativity-oriented process to biological and then cultural evolution. The theological myth is that God is waking up and we are a part of that awakening. We can help it along or give into the intrinsic tendencies to lapse back into relative unconsciousness. It may take centuries, millennia, eons to awaken. Whatever. Our job is just to help it move towards whatever are the next steps.

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