Creativity and ... Humility?
by Emily Ruppel
When I was an undergraduate, studying to be a poet, self-promotion was the law. Whether or not you were the next Emily Dickenson or E.E. Cummings and had poetic genius drifting dreamily through your bloodstream, it wasn’t going to do you much good if no one recognized your genius, and you sure weren’t going to get recognized for your genius if nobody knew who you were.
At first, the avenues available for getting our words “out there” were pretty straightforward: Go to conferences and readings; schmooze with editors; get on the local reading circuit; submit everywhere, all the time; annoy your friends and family by urging them to buy your book; repeat, repeat, repeat.
These days, we have personal websites and Facebook and Twitter and Instagram and mass texting and a host of other platforms on which to indulge in what always felt to me like a sickness of self-absorption, but which is, perhaps, a necessary evil in the world of the professional writer.
Of course, the law of self-promotion extends beyond writing. Academics, artists, and businesspeople of all stripes are also subject to the law. So, it seems, are people with nothing better to do. These days, the law doesn’t apply merely to the promotion of one’s own work—it extends to one’s entire personality and way of life. The advent of social media has made the sundry details of our daily lives a constant presence on each other’s “walls” and news feeds—they even show up in the sidebars of certain email providers. Knowing this, we feel encouraged to promote our own unique brand of humor through clever quips and one-liners, post perfect-looking pictures of vacations and outings so others can see what we’re up to (and how great it was), post announcements about parties and get-togethers even if these are not open invitation, post rants about stultifying department meetings, the DMV, taxes, traffic, etc., etc...
I recently returned from the annual meeting of the American Scientific Affiliation, in Nashville, Tennessee, where hundreds of Christians in the sciences gathered together to talk, worship, and share ideas about God and nature and a thousand subjects in between. It was a time of celebration for the creativity we scientists and science aficionados share with the divinity we worship, a time to come together over breakfast and post-plenary beers to tease out the questions we should be asking about our responsibilities to others and our small yet privileged place in the vast, vast cosmos.
It was a time, as it always is, of reconnecting with our humility, rather than our personal importance.
Interacting with this diverse group of scholars—scientists, teachers, and theologians of all stripes—one can’t help but come away tempered by the collective wisdom in every room.
Harvard astronomer Owen Gingerich recently wrote, “As Genesis 1:27 says, ‘God created man in his own image, male and female he created them.’ That’s undoubtedly the most important verse in the whole first chapter of the Bible. God as Creator has endowed us with creativity in his own image, the ability to research, to imagine, to discover many fascinating details about the nature and origin of the universe…”
How thankful I am for the people that expose my flawed thinking out of love and devotion to humility, not the alternative.