January 13, 2006

Super-Sized Creativity in a Small Package

I was singing a made-up song to Nathan a few days ago when I realized something: every area of creativity has fairly strict limitations.

Music? The western world has only 12 different tones. Sure, you can go up or down an octave or two, but the pitch is one of those 12 tones. My mind boggles at the thought that all music I listen to - from Evanescence to Sugarland - is within the limit of twelve tones.

Writing? The English language has only 26 letters; Spanish - 30 letters; ancient Greek - 25 characters. Every word ever spoken in these languages, every thought that was formed, every book ever written is from multiple and varied combinations of those characters.

Visual art? Every color is a shade, tint or combination of six hues. Every color from pumpkin orange with cinnamon tints to lemon gelato ice is possible from that original palette of six: red, orange, yellow, green, blue, and purple. [White is all of these colors mixed together; black is the absence of all of them; brown is red, yellow and blue mixed together.]

Dance? There are definite restrictions (more for some people than for others!) on what the skeleton and muscles can do. 206 bones - but the motions they allow us to are as individual as we are.

The ultimate example of this creativity for me is DNA: the harshest restrictions (adenosine, guanine, cytosine and tyrosine - the four amino acids) and the greatest variety (no duplications; every person is unique). Even identical twins (identical in genetic make-up) have different personalities.

The lesson for me? When I run into restrictions, don't stress. Some of the greatest creativity in the world happens under restriction. We just don't think of the restrictions when we create. Who on earth sits down to write and is irritated that there are only 26 letters in the alphabet?

Restrictions don't always inhibit; sometimes they free us to be creative. Spiritual restrictions aren't meant to punish me; they're meant to free me to be myself without having to think and worry about how I'm perceived and if I'm doing something wrong.

It's all about perspective.


relevantgirl said...

Great post! I love that you're singing, even if there are only 12 tones. I wonder if there are more in heaven!

amy said...

Well said, my friend. Although, as a graphic artist I must correct you in that all subtractive color (ink on paper) is made up of three colors: cyan, magenta, and yellow; and all additive color (light) is made of of three colors: red, blue, and green.

:) Couldn't resist. Miss you.