“Who is my self?” That was one of a couple of self transcending questions I needed to answer last Friday, ahead of a call today with my dialogue coach. I traveled to Garden of the Gods in Colorado Springs, grabbed a stone and considered it.
“Who is this person, this being?” At first, nothing happened. Perhaps, the question has no answer, or it’s capable of infinite possibilities. I jotted down words on a piece of paper: thinker, experimenter, worker, stress-free, risk-taker, divergent. The words were soon followed by phrases: “living life,” “not wasting time,” “finding a personal purpose”, “experiencing many mini purposes for a greater overall purpose.” As I wrote, I started to metaphorically lift from my self, thinking more critically of who I am — not what I or other’s expect, but who I’m being.
To better discover the symptoms of my surface, I came together in a state of presencing with someone close to me, my wife. We debated some of my ideas, as she found hypocrisies in my self-prescribed values and interpretations of my actions. As we distributed our attentiveness to my various senses of self, that led to our theory of my dual personalities. At first, the concept seemed awkward. But as I study creative thinkers, I’m seeing a trend where creative people are frequently both divergent and convergent. They’re independent and open-minded, risk takers who, eventually, become focused and deliberate. Some research suggests creative people may border on neuroses, schizophrenia or sociopathy. Might it be appropriate to call highly creative people bipolar passion junkies?
I divided my self into two personalities: divergent and convergent. I’m a creative individual who’s exposed to conflicting personality traits. I enjoy exploring unknowns, experimenting with novel ideas, mingling with strangers, staying light-hearted. But when I assign myself a purpose, my thrill in seeking a new passion is replaced by a personal and self-absorbed adventure. When I chose to study oil painting after a 20-year hiatus, I collected knowledge from books, short videos and long documentaries. I sought out people interested in oil, arcrylic and watercolor painting. I dug for a deeper understanding of the mediums, cultivating ideas. But once my brush touched the canvas, I wanted to be left alone. I suppose the same transition occurs whenever I’m tied to a project that’ll reflect my commitment and competence — my creativity.
During our call, my dialogue coach helped me understand the need for balance between my divergent and convergent selfs, ensuring neither tramples on the other. While creative acts compel intense concentration, they shouldn’t halt my creative process, which requires the consistent combining of ideas and their relationships. What’s more, I must always question whether my passions are grounded by reason. By using active intermissions, either through external collaboration or internal inquiry, I must keep my divergence self relevant, so my convergent self remains meaningful and productive.
While explaining the creative process, composer Peter Ilich Tchaikovsky said:
“If that condition of mind and soul, which we call inspiration lasted long without intermission, no artist could survive it. The strings would break and the instrument be shattered into fragments. It is already a great thing if the main ideas and general outline of a work come without any raking of brains, as the result of that supernatural and inexplicable force we call inspiration.”
So, “Who am I?” How do we add clarity to obscurity? If we knew the truth of our existence, how would it affect our ability to experience? While discussing my conclusions with my dialogue coach, she explained Buddhist Koans, questions used in Zen-practice to provoke doubt. By mediating on questions with infinite possibilities, we can all better discover “who are we?”