Rain at dawn

The wind-swept spirit of creativity

In our mortal bodies, says seventeenth-century Japanese poet Matsuo Bashō, “there is something, and this something is called a wind-swept spirit for lack of a better name, for it is much like a thin drapery that is torn and swept away at the slightest stir of wind.” Bashō explains that this spirit of creativity in him “took to writing poetry years ago, merely to amuse itself at first, but finally making it its lifelong business.” [This is the opening of his poem-essay “The Records of a Travel-Worn Satchel,” in The Narrow Road to the Deep North and Other Travel Sketches by Matsuo Bashō, translated by Nobuyuki Yuasa (Penguin Books, 1966): page 71.]

I’ve often wondered what it is that creates. Is it merely a function of the body as a biological organism, as the materialists would have us believe, a product of the body’s (especially the brain’s) wondrous complexity? Or is there something more, as religious people and millennia of metaphysically oriented artists have insisted, a transcendental muse that inspires and guides creativity?

Either way, as Bashō rightly points out, inspired artistry comes by way of the artist’s nature. He insists, “all who have achieved real excellence in any art, possesses one thing in common, that is, a mind to obey nature, to be one with nature, throughout the four seasons of the year.” Indeed, excellence in art cannot be determined by the price that one’s creations fetch in the market. Excellence is merely a matter of how well one follows the path of one’s nature.

[Daily post 018 of 260 in my year-long challenge.] ♨

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