This week, thoughts about Donald Trump, the new President-elect of the United States, were all over my F-R-E-E-Writing.
And all over my Twitter feed, as friends and followers poured out disappointment, anger, fear and despair, and countless assumptions about what it will means for the US, and the rest of the world, that the American people have voted in a man like Trump as their president.
It was like deja vu here in the UK, after the recent referendum in which the UK voted to leave the European Union.
The response is a kind of fear and hatred and intolerance, from those who are always pleading for tolerance for our own kind. “Not My President”, announce the protest posters, as if you can opt out of democracy when it doesn’t go your way.
Trump voters are exiled and deemed unsafe by unversities setting up safe spaces for young progressives experiencing “uncertainty, anger, anxiety and/or fear”.
Voters don’t deserve democracy if that’s what they are going to do with it, opine some commentators.
And the outpouring of insult and invective against those who voted for Trump goes on.
When we lambaste Trump, or his supporters en masse, we are in conventional mode. Full of self-interest, enflamed opinion and feeling (conceptual thought, what we call con-state in the Go Creative! books).
To access the create-state, we need a more open space. We still have our opinions, we cannot pretend to think or feel other than how we do. But we know how to make space around them, to become bigger than them, to contain — not to be contained by — them.
That space is the space where creative action rises.
“We do not see people as they are,” said Anais Nin. “We see them as we are.”
Those things we see in Donald Trump that we don’t like, that frighten or anger us: are we so sure we are not mirroring them in ourselves? If we look deeply, do we not find them within and, at least sometimes, acting out?
I know I did, when I looked at what I was telling my F-R-E-E-Writing Notebook about the election and what it might mean.
Kansan Sarah Smarsh expressed it well in a recent thought-provoking article challenges the description of Trump voters as “dangerous idiots”.
If you would stereotype a group of people by presuming to guess their politics or deeming them inferior to yourself – say, the ones who worked third shift on a Boeing floor while others flew to Mexico during spring break; the ones who mopped a McDonald’s bathroom while others argued about the minimum wage on Twitter; the ones who cleaned out their lockers at a defunct Pabst factory while others drank craft beer at trendy bars; the ones who came back from the Middle East in caskets while others wrote op-eds about foreign policy – then consider that you might have more in common with Trump than you would like to admit.
It’s always a sobering realization, to see how easy it is to fall into tribal thinking. And dismissing of people en masse is tribal thinking, whether done by bleeding-heart humanitarians or tub-thumping demagogues.
A New World Is Being Born
Here’s how I like to think about Donald Trump: The old ways are dying and a new world is being born.
A more creative and creativist world.
And birth is always a labor and generally painful.
The shape we’ve allowed our democracies to take — the widening gap between rich and poor and elevation of the 1% at the expense of 99%; the ignoring of those who worked hard but lost much, whether in the market crash of 2008 or the manufacturing layoffs of recent decades; the poisoning of people’s bodies with toxic food and minds with the toxic thought of a 24-hour media cycle has all helped create this result.
Hilary Clinton lost her presidential bid, and Britain voted Brexit because a great many voters, feeling lost, neglected and confused knew only one thing for sure.
That what they didn’t want was business as usual.
A large number of them may want to roll progress back but there were also those who want to go beyond what we have now.
That was what the standout feeling I found rising, much to my own surprise, when I went to vote on Brexit. To my own astonishment, I voted leave.
I don’t believe I could have voted for Trump if I was in the US but I can understand why some people who are not alt-right (AKA neo-Nazi) did.
Time for Change?
It’s always time for change. As Heraclitus said, change is the only constant. And when things are not as we would wish them to be, that’s a call to take a step towards the direction we want change to take.
But change in the outer, material world correlates with change in ourselves, at the inner level.
If we don’t want the Trump years to be a swing back to old ways that we long ago rejected, we need to evolve to a new level of being.
And it looks like that level — the creative/creativist level — will involve less thinking, not more.
Rational materialist thought and its attendant form of capitalism seems to have brought us as far as it can go. The materialist democracy we’ve created looks broken, and is failing the majority.
These elections must wake us up to that. Especially those of us who have been most privileged by the system.
Wake up to what our leaders and politicos and bankers are doing in our name, yes, but also to what we are doing ourselves.
The personal is always political and never more than now. How the world will shape up in the wake of these elections is hugely affected by the choices that each of us makes, and continues to make, about how we live (and work and play) together.
Which of us has not gone shopping with saving money uppermost in our minds, for example, turning a blind eye to how our food, our clothes and our household goods get made. The real cost, to people and planet, of how we feed, clothe and shelter ourselves?
Will we rise to the challenge of understanding our own part in the co-creation of this socio-political order?
The Creative Way
Creativists, by definition, don’t follow old pathways. Having absorbed the lay of the land, we set off in questioning, exploratory mode. Open and investigative, playful and experimental, we draw new maps.
Getting beyond worn-out patterns of thoughts and feelings in this way, finding the creative response that feels right, often takes time.
The theme of The Go Creative Show and blog this week is “don’t think, just do”. But what happens when you don’t know what to do?
You don’t fill yourself up with fear and loathing. You make mental space and take a creative pause to look deeply, beyond thinking or talking, beyond judgements or opinions, beyond fear or despair.
Beyond the emotions to what the emotions are telling you. And only then to what they might be telling you to do.
Drop The Answers and Live The Questions
Looking deeply also means asking creative questions, ones that leave room for change and growth, not set our opinions harder. It means listening. To those who voted for Trump, but also to the part of ourselves that knows best, that goes beyond the given.
Here are some of the questions I’ve been asking myself since the Brexit referendum, an election in which I found myself voting against my tribe, and against what I expected of myself:
- We get the leaders we create, so what did we, individually and collectively, do to bring about a world where Trump leads the US, and the majority of British people want to leave the EU?
- How has my own personal privilege impacted on other lives, and helped create this vote?
- How do I feel about shake-up and change versus business as usual?
- What is my creative intention for the world I live in? How am I living (as opposed to talking about) that intention?
Back in 1903, in the kindest book a mentor ever wrote for an aspiring creative, Letters to a Young Poet, Rainer Maria Rilke, spelled out what it is to be a creative and a creativist.
Below is his thought about what he calls living the questions. “The point is to live everything,” Rilke says.
And until we can live it, wait.
Wait. And incubate.
I would like to beg you, dear Sir, as well as I can, to have patience with everything unresolved in your heart and to try to love the questions themselves as if they were locked rooms or books written in a very foreign language.
Don’t search for the answers, which could not be given to you now, because you would not be able to live them.
And the point is to live everything.
Live the questions now.
Perhaps then, someday far in the future, you will gradually, without even noticing it, live your way into the answer.
RM Rilke, Letters To A Young Poet.