Creativity and Encounter

By Terry Shea

November 21, 2017

Centre for Spiritual Living White Rock

Posted In: Spiritual Wellness, White Rock


The recurring theme in the “Courage to Create” and the subject of this week’s lecture is ”encounter.” I was the retreat director for several years of a programme called the Teen Encounter and am quite familiar with the term and the intent behind the Retreat experience. I was surprised to find encounter as central to creativity as Rollo May seems to indicate.

He says at the beginning of the chapter, “Creativity occurs in an act of encounter and is understood with this encounter at its centre.”He goes on to say that the artist encounters something in nature (that is to say in the natural world, in life) and is grasped by that meeting.

He is so forcibly taken by the encounter that he perceives in a whole new way and then creates something never seen before because of how he has been changed. The work of art produced – music, painting, poem – is then a vehicle for the observer to have a similar encounter with something new and, in turn, be someone new.

Put in these terms, the encounter idea is in fact just how life works, or how it could or should work. The people, events, objects and experiences of our life have the ability to change us if we truly encounter them. The artist’s eye, the musicians ear, the saint’s or sage’s mindfulness or awareness is attuned to the essence of things and so he or she is available to being changed, often profoundly by circumstances that others would never even notice. It is this level of attunement that I am seeking to achieve in my own life so as to encounter the Divine and that I have committed myself to teaching.

Last week I quoted Marilyn Leo who said that Ernest Holmes was intensely interested in the wonder of being human, of the untapped potential in our life and the ever-present potential to have a better life. He never ceased to be inspired by the lives and thoughts of the great thinkers of the past and was ready to encounter equally great lives and expansive thinking in those around him. He was constantly engaged in philosophical discussions with all kinds of people, including, to the horror of some of his followers, a streetwalker he happened upon while visiting San Francisco. It was said that he met with people not to teach them but to learn from them. He was always available to the encounter, but to what end?

I believe it was for the same reason that Rollo May explains in this Chapter. Every time we are open to something new and allow it to touch us in a deep way we are in the place of being able to create something new, never seen before. In the act of creating that new something we give a precious gift to the world. First, we are a new creation. We do not and cannot think about life the way we did even five minutes before that encounter, and second, we bring something to the world that has never been seen before. We create something, a work of art, or a thought, a word, a kindness, something that has the potential to change the world in small way. I have been accused of being restlessly, even obsessively, preoccupied with change and growth. There is a reason for this. I am committed to being the author of my experience and never the victim of someone else’s actions, perceptions and projections. Like all commitments sometimes I keep my commitments to myself and sometimes I don’t. I am learning that even in my ”failures” I have the opportunity to encounter a radical newness; a new that has never been and create a new in myself.

John, in the Book of Revelation, puts these words into the mouth of the Spirit, “Behold I make all things new.” and I/we do!

Questions for Rev Terry? Email him at revt@csl-whiterock.com