It was during the first year of writing my novel, that, on this blog, I put forward the idea that our lives were like an empty canvas.
Nothing existed on that “life canvass” before. Nothing was pre-destined. Every step in the creative process was a new one, and every step was our step. We were the sole creators of our lives and the sole creators of our work. And what came of it all, in the end, was all up to us.
This theory of life was a sharp contrast to the conventional belief that there was a set path that we all must follow in life, and that if we strayed from said path, we could possibly fail (or get lost) along the way.
I remember that the old theory of life had left me feeling shackled, hopeless, doomed to become a passive victim of life’s vicious shrapnel.
But this new theory of life, which I aptly referred to as “the courage to create,” filled me with confidence, determination, and power. It also became the overarching theme of this very blog.
Now, at first, it was good to finally know my own power. But after a while, even with this new knowing, I inevitably ran into a brick wall.
Because the reality was this: I was not the sole creator in my life or in my work. No, there was someone else in the mix. Someone else was creating with me.
I was discovering that I was not, in fact, a “sole-creator.” I was a “co-creator.” Although this idea seemed limiting to me at first, I realized that, fundamentally, I could not escape this truth.
The Self Vs. Wholeness
Okay, in order to help you fully understand what I’m trying to say, I need to turn to the idea of “the self” for a brief moment.
What is the self?
Well, for our purposes, let’s just keep the definition of “the self” simple.
Let’s just say that the self is division.
The self is the division between all “the parts” of you: the mental, emotional, spiritual, and physical parts of you. The self is also the division between you and your community. The self is also the division between you and god–or the universe, the source, nature—whatever you choose to call it.
(For the sake of convenience I will be using the word “god” in this post, but feel free to substitute this word for Christ, Buddha, Krishna, the universe, the source, nature—whatever serves as a symbol for the “bigger picture” for you.)
Why is “the self” division? Because the only way to have a self is for you to separate your “self” from everything and everybody.
For example: you cannot have a self if you’re aware that you’re intrinsically connected with your community, can you? No. You would have to believe that you are distinct and separate from your own community in order to believe in a ‘self” in the first place.
This is because “the self” implies that you are a distinct entity that can act completely on its own, without creating consequences for others.
(As you can see, our obsession with the self explains why so many people have no problem being cruel to others. People are cruel to others only when they are unaware of the fact that the person they are being cruel to is, in actuality, “a part” of them. You’re only cruel to others when you believe that you’re separate from others.)
If the “the self” is division, then the opposite of “the self” is wholeness, or oneness.
Wholeness (or oneness) is the union between all parts of you: the emotional, spiritual, mental, and physical parts of you. Wholeness is the union between you and your community, and wholeness is the union between you and god.
Wholeness, or oneness, means you have to admit that you, as an individual, are only a “part” of the grand scheme of things.
So, if wholeness means you have to admit that you’re a part of something bigger than you, then that means you have to be willing to relinquish some of your power. It means that you have to admit that “the self” is not as powerful as you thought it was, or at least wanted it to be.
It also means that you have to admit that the self cannot create everything it wants on its own. In order to accept wholeness, the self must be humbled. The self must learn how to be receptive, as well as active.
Finding The Courage To Co-Create
I’m going to ask you to consider this: who built the plumbing that delivers clean water to you every day? Someone else did. Who invented the computer you are currently typing on? Someone else did. Who paved that road you drive on? Someone else did. And who answered the phone when you called a friend to join you for a cup of coffee, and wind down from a long day of work? Some else did.
It is truly “self-ish” to believe that we can get what we want, exactly how we want it, at the exact time we want it—without the cooperation of others.
If we believe this, then we live in a world of delusion. We live in the world of the self. The self believes it exists in a vacuum that allows it to create freely, without interference, and without the necessary co-operation of someone else.
But each of us needs to be taught how to live in harmony with The Other who is creating with us. We need to learn how to be receptive, as much as we need to learn how to be active. We need to learn how to do nothing, as much as we need to learn how to do something.
We can pretend we’re on this journey alone all we want, but a part of us will always run into a brick wall: we will run into the limits of how much we’re able to create on our own.
Fresh out of our own paint, and unable to finish the other half of the painting on our own, we’ll be forced to wait until The Other arrives with his fresh batch of colors; and then be patient as The Other fills in the empty spaces on the canvas we could not fill on our own.
This is why doing “nothing” very often leads to action. It is because, when we do nothing, we are taking a step back and letting The Other step in to fill in all the empty spaces we could not fill in on our own.
Doing “nothing,” in this case, is going into a state of emptiness, receptiveness, and effortlessness out of which all creativity, action, and purpose flows from.
Doing “nothing” is the time when we stop talking and allow The Other to speak. Doing nothing is the time when we stop “pushing” and let The Other “pull.” Doing nothing is the time when we stop creating and let The Other create.
This is why, sometimes, too much action might actually lead you into a brick wall—a dead end—that makes you feel “stuck.” Ironically, you feel stuck because you think you can fill in “the canvass” all on your own.
But you can’t finish the painting of life all on your own. No matter how hard you try.
This is why it’s so important to realize that your life is not only yours to create. Life is not just your painting—it is not even just The Other’s painting—the painting of life belongs to the both of you.
Our reliance on god and our community as indispensable artistic partners shouldn’t be seen as a chore, or as evidence of our own limitations, but as proof of the unrivaled beauty that can only come as a result of a loving partnership.