Kokeshi, Rope-making, and Creativity

“Write it. Shoot it. Publish it. Crochet it, sauté it, whatever. MAKE.”
― Joss Whedon

I recently ran into a video of a Japanese doll maker, courtesy of ; it was a fascinating look at one man’s craft and the intricate work in which he engages with his hands. Take a look (and listen):Mental Floss

You can learn more about the Kokeshi dolls here at the original article.

This reminded me of a field trip I had with some of my students last year, when I had the privilege of accompanying several classes for an overnight excursion to Sutter’s Fort in Sacramento. While at the Fort, we all role-played particular roles: the students were assigned specific backgrounds and identities, and had the chance to learn various trades that were prevalent at the time of John Sutter. The teachers and parents taught these trades, and for our part, we had various identities too: I was a Catholic (go figure!) immigrant from a large family who barely made it over Donnor Pass. In addition to my role, I was also a rope-maker, and taught the students how to make good (or not so good) quality rope. Somehow, I imagine my 19th century counterpart had just a little bit more skill than I did after my 30 minutes of instruction.

In any case, while we were there, I was talking with a dear friend, a fellow teacher, about the various trades in which we were employed at the Fort, and she made an astute observation: we were not made for sitting behind a desk; as human beings we need to be doing something. As teachers, we were blessed in the fact that we had active days, interacting with many people, even though there were certainly times that we had to sit at a desk and grade papers, but we both agreed that it would be very difficult to have a typical desk job.

The point, however, was this: no matter what our occupation, we must still be allowed to create in order to be truly fulfilled. Human beings are naturally creative creatures, whether we are participating in the creative aspect of procreation in union with our spouse and in concert with God, or if we are “creating” in terms of physical trade or crafts, or even more abstract ventures such as writing or art. to flourish, we must be allowed, and seek, to participate in the creative nature given to us by God.

Human beings are made in the image and likeness of God, and what is He? He is the creator, the one who brought our entire cosmos into being. If, then, we are made in His image and likeness, then we are naturally creative beings. Does this mean we create like God ex nihilo, out of nothing? No, of course not. But in some way, we still share in that creative nature: at fundamental levels such as procreation, or in more abstract forms such as art, music, writing, hobbies, and even in mundane everyday work. We are driven to creativity, in whatever form the Lord has blessed us. All throughout my life, I have seen evidence of this drive towards creativity: my dad was a florist, my grandfather was a frame-maker and craftsman. I myself enjoy writing, even if I am a bit verbose. Creativity is present in occupations and skills that one would not normally expect to be considered “creative”: my sister, a physical therapist, must examine patients and using her knowledge, form treatment plans that best allow her patients to thrive. A friend who is a massage therapist does the same, as does a close friend who is a nurse in the Navy. Teachers create all the time with their students. Priests must grapple with the mysteries of God, discerning how to present them to their people, begetting spiritual children, and  helping their communities grow closer to Him.

File:Milky Way from France.jpg

I think He did a pretty good job… By BlaiseThirard (Own work) Creative Commons BY-SA 3.0

Some people find this share in the creative outside of their jobs. Hobbies are an excellent example, even some hobbies that some may consider more far-flung: my own interest in astronomy allows me to participate in the creative aspect of God both through observation and the consideration of particular astronomical questions. My grandfather continues to cultivate bonsai plants, and many of my friends create through music. Even at a more basic level, our primary vocations, whether single, married, ordained, or consecrated, draw us into the life of the Trinity, sharing in God’s love and in His creative force.

In whatever way we are called to be creative, we must take joy in our work, seeing the action of the Father, at the prompting of the Holy Spirit, through the grace of the Son, present in our lives and vocation. How are you called to create?

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