Secondary Creativity

Why read a book, visit an art museum, attend a play, listen to a symphony, or make time to watch PBS? So that you’ll dare to get your hands dirty, have your mind sharpened, spirit quickened, understanding broadened, or sense of humor restored. You may never lift a brush or strum an instrument, but you are better as a result of those who have, if you stand in the flow of their genius. Marjorie McCoy called this “secondary creativity,” and Tillich had this to say about it: “In order to be spiritually creative one need not be what is called a creative artist or scientist or statesman, but one must be able to participate meaningfully in their original creations. Such a participation is creative insofar as it changes that in which one participates, even if in very small ways.”

The same process is in play when I rub shoulders with those who are smarter, better, or more spiritually savvy. I am made a better and brighter person because of my exposure to what God looks like inside and outside of you. Even as a mirror helps me recognize myself, I comprehend more clearly what God is erecting in me by viewing what he is constructing in you. He comes into focus every time I hit golf balls with my ex-offender friend, sit with an octogenarian widower whose robust health is failing for the first and last time, overhear the struggles of a seminary graduate describing his spiritual life as dry as toast, watch a friend work past scars from a domineering mother, and discern grace in the eyes of my wife. Left to myself I tend toward smallness, spiritual inbreeding in which everything I become is a little less than what I was before; I need others if I am ever to permit God to save me from myself. “Our brother breaks the circle of self-deception. A man who confesses his sins in the presence of a brother knows that he is no longer alone with himself; he experiences the presence of God in the reality of the other person” (Bonhoeffer).

“Let us hold fast the profession of our faith without wavering; (for he is faithful that promised;) And let us consider one another to provoke unto love and to good works: Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching.” (‭Hebrews‬ ‭10‬:‭23-25‬, KJV)

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