Grappling With The Fundamental Desire To Create

There is, I think, a fundamental desire in man to create, to not only base knowledge or profession solely off of an expert-to-learner basis, but to contribute something new, catalyze change, proffer novelty. I wrestle with this desire when I prospect possible careers for myself, because to act cog-like seems almost inevitable, but to create is a necessity.

“Man hopes, genius creates,” Emerson said, and I think this aphorism can even be panned to a wider audience. It is the statistical inevitability of middling natures that leads humans to mimic, or idly hope, or passively float through life waiting for things to fall their way, but at our core, humans, no matter their predisposition, burn to create. “Genius,” to me, and perhaps to Emerson, too, seems to imply a sort of tapped-into consciousness, unflattened by society’s mechanisms.

There is, I think, a fundamental anxiety in man that, when gone untended for a time, surfaces as domestic or professional unrest. This anxiety comes in the form of mid-life crises or shake-ups, or more commonly in the form of an undefinable feeling of discomfort towards life, a perceived ennui or indolence whose source is inside, internal, but whose culprit is misapprehended as some sort of materialistic lack. Sometimes the unrest is so general-seeming as to appear and disappear, over and over, like a haunting ghost.

But when we create, it is, in a way, selfish, individuated altruism. Our desire to create something of worth, something noticed and praised, something affecting, is at once selfish and healthy. To think one a minor character in one’s own life, in the lives of others, and in the greater concerns of the cosmos, is a debasing, depressing feeling only combatted by feelings of real, active contribution.

The always-biting aphorisms of Nietzsche seem apt here, specifically this one: “Cynicism is the only available honesty to mediocre souls.” When we perceive our lives as inconsequential, as sieves time conveniently passes through, seeing the world through only cynical eyes is the logical option. What Nietzsche says, is this cynicism belongs to the mediocre souls, those destined to consignment in the world-at-large, to passively float or impersonally keep the machinery of humanity moving forward. These cynics are the practical fodder greater men stand atop. The greatest men use the cynics as links in the chain to greatness, but consider them as simple means. The cynics, once they perceive this, bury their innate, human desire to create and paper over the first layers of cognition with a thick skin of cynicism.

Although this is all true, that many men live lives of great doubt and bitterness, I think there still lies, even in the deepest recesses of the highly cynical and victimized soul, an impetus towards creation, and a genuine, almost chaste craving towards the good. The good here, I’ll define as a positive contribution to the discourse, or the mechanics of society, or really any and every thing that can warrant innovation and originality. But this realization is a painful one for most, a reaching down into the absurd that can be ugly. As Nietzsche says, the abyss gazes back, and from that hopeless void man can either resign himself to his “unfair life,” or wrest himself from this seductive gaze and wade into the world as a positive creator, as a creature of great effort and trial, as one who continues onward. It is difficult to do this; so many do not. My advice: stare into the abyss, yes, but battle the monsters, too, before you simply become one.

  • Hank Wordsworth

    Sorry to be cynical, but Nietzsche lecturing us about cynicism is pot/kettle. The hoi polloi—which are most of us now and again—are merely in his way. Obviously he could have benefited from a common touch at more places than just a brothel.