April 18, 2023

Earthly vs Unearthly

I’ve been reading the new Rick Rubin book (The Creative Act: A Way of Being). It’s so wonderful. I love how it’s structured (nice short chapters you can read in a couple minutes that are packed with ideas to seep into your day…absolutely lovely). Thought I’d share a fascinating juxtaposition I discovered in two different chapters.

Part 1

He writes:

Turning something from an idea
into a reality
can make it seem smaller.

It changes from unearthly to earthly.
The imagination has no limits.
The physical world does.
The work exists in both.

I feel this in a lot of my life. A concept is brilliant, but when I put it down on paper, it falls flat. That dream was amazing, but when I try to describe it there just aren’t words. The strategy we conceptualize feels perfect, until we try it with real humans.

There are a lot of truths in this passage that I keep stumbling upon. But I love that he ends it with a reminder to us that the work exists in both.” In other words, bringing something out of the conceptual into the real doesn’t remove it from the conceptual. We can hold both at one time.

It also encourages me to push my daily work to be as close to the conceptual as possible. My goal is becoming to remove space between the idea and the reality. The closer the earthly is to the unearthly, the less limited it is!

Now, contrast this with…

Part 2

If you’re picking colors based on a Pantone book, you’re limited to a certain number of choices. If you step out in nature, the palette is infinite. Each rock has such a variation of color within it, we could never find a can of paint to mimic the exact same shade.

Nature transcends our tendencies to label and classify, to reduce and limit. The natural world is unfathomably more rich, interwoven, and complicated than we are taught, and so much more mysterious and beautiful.

Deepening our connection to nature will serve our spirit, and what serves our spirit invariably serves our artistic output.

It’s easy to read that and agree with it. But when I compare it to the previous passage, I feel a little incongruence. Certainly a rock is earthly,” but it contains an infinite color palette—an unearthly” characteristic.

I’m starting to see how these two sections of the book are actually connected. Nature is at once both earthly and unearthly. It’s the perfect concept made real, a model for us to use in our creativity.

I’m taking this as a reminder to get outside into the natural world—not just to exist in nature, but to observe it. Maybe the more we surround ourselves with that beauty the more it will infiltrate our creative work?

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