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We are creators not consumers

· Bible

We are born creators

Creativity is the natural order of life. Life is energy: pure creative energy. - Julia Cameron, The Artist's Way

Principle #1 of the Basic Principles of The Artist's Way, by Julia Cameron.

In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. - Genesis 1:1

Human beings have spent millennia contemplating the divine. The first characteristic that we (of many faiths and cultures) attribute to the Real is of Creator. This is an affirmation that there is an order to the universe - a pattern on which everything we know is based on. This is creativity. Pure creative energy, if you will.

The following chapter of the Bible shows the divine (called "God" in the English translation) as continuing to create different parts of the universe. Through this process of creation, the divine is shown to have some other characteristics, like 'goodness', 'provider' and 'blessing'. Yet if you ask anyone what the first chapter of the Bible is about, you will get the same answer: creation.

When human beings are introduced into the story, the divine utters the following words to describe us: "in our image, after our likeness". Now, I don't claim to be an expert in Judaeo-Christian theology and I'm sure that phrase "in our image, after our likeness" includes many aspects with wide reaching theological implications that other people can tell us about. But what has been the central theme of that first chapter? What has the divine been doing?

God, the divine, the universe - whatever word you wish to use to describe the indescribable - its first and foremost character is that of creation. As the Judaeo-Christian narrative puts it, we are made in that image.

We are born creative. We can see this in the children around us who play with sticks as though they are swords. Or playdough that becomes a delicious meal through the magical eyes of a three-year old. That creativity is innate. It is our true nature and the ancient nomadic people that were telling this creation story to each other millennia ago wanted to affirm this.

"Your value lies in how much you consume"

Now let's take a look around us. What is the world telling us today? At least in mainstream Western culture and definitely in East Asia too (thinking Korea, the country of my birth, the wealthy China, Hong Kong, etc), we are no longer seen as creative beings. The way that our economy works, we are either producers or consumers - and more often the latter is how we're valued.

Both of these are true. As human beings we are producers. We are also consumers. Both of these are also affirmed in the first chapter of Genesis when the divine utters "be fruitful and multiply," (produce) and "you shall have them for food" (consume). It's a fact of life - we must work (produce) to food on the table (consume). (Side note: it is an interesting thought experiment to imagine a post-work world where people will no longer will have to work to put food on the table, a thought which is getting less and less absurd by the day.)

But this is how the most powerful deceptions and corruptions work. They take something that is true and they twist it. In the Judaeo-Christian faith traditions, the term idolatry is used to describe this deception and is the major focus of their warnings throughout both faiths' histories.

(Side note: sadly this is a major part of how the world works still to this day. We are constantly making this mistake. In our government, relationships and even in places of worship - I can only speak for my tradition here, churches. We take something that is good and we corrupt it by idolising it. Love for those of the same tradition or place of birth, which becomes nationalism. Money, something that makes the world work so much more efficiently, which becomes greed and through which we've now ended up with a crooked form of capitalism. Romantic love that becomes a crutch or an unhealthy obsession through which you lose yourself. An affirmation of a commitment between a man and a woman that becomes an ideology which would deny different people the same joy. A great exploration of the divine through a rich faith tradition that pre-dates you, that becomes a fundamentalist and sometimes violent rejection of others' own paths to do the same.)

Side note over. Back to consumption. Look as we value people. We value rich people - we have lists made every year to celebrate the richest people in the world, country, city. We value those who can contribute more to the consumer economy. Those with more expensive homes, cars, clothes, jewellery. Those who eat the best food and drink the best wine.

From an early age we are bombarded with the message that the more you consume the more worthy you are. We've now ended up in a place where people can only describe themselves as a "foodie" or a "connoisseur of fine wine" but struggle to come up with anything else about themselves. Please hear me, I'm not saying that it's bad to enjoy the creative pursuits of others to produce delicious food and drink. Yet you can see how the narrative that you are a consumer has been firmly grasped hold of our collective worldview, when you see so many people with giant trainers (sneakers) collections or those that want giant trainers (sneakers) collections.

Or look at how we've now bought into the myth of fast fashion. We must have the latest trend, the latest gadget. We do this ignoring the harmful effect that our insatiable (the insatiability that has been programmed into us) and mindless consumption is having on our environment. I see this in my faith tradition, which is sad given that it goes against the Biblical story that human beings are stewards of creation rather than its virus (predator is too flattering a word for how we're treating the planet).

What happens when you can't 'contribute' by consuming? The world will treat you as a less valuable human being. We see it everywhere, in governments, law enforcement, universities and schools. This is the flip side to the narrative of consumption. You are valuable if you consume more. If you don't, or can't, you are worthless.

A request and some questions

I would love for us to challenge the dominant consumption narrative by tapping into an ancient wisdom. The wisdom that says creativity is a fundamental part of what it means to be human.

How will you live out your creativity? What's a small creative act that you can commit to this week? What tiny change could you make in your weekly routine to reduce your consumption and introduce some creativity in your life?