Creating Free Will

Click here for audio: 72615_Free_Will.mp3

Creating free will:

“An artist is forced by others to paint out of his own free will.” So said one of my favorite artists, Willem de Kooning.

Recently, I discovered a few old sketchbooks with drawings I had done between college and now. Then, I was compelled to keep a sketchbook, if only to compare notes with fellow art students while we relaxed after classes. I must say, I am liking these memories, and I also like using the images in new and interesting ways as digital files.

However, it strikes me that I can remember some of these discussions, and the thoughts behind the scribbles, memories that had lain silent for up to 40 years. Yes, I am lucky to have this opportunity to reform and refine my creativity, but another notion comes to mind. I am a victim of a creative urge, one that takes over my thoughts until I have put pen or image to paper or screen.

Since college, I haven’t given much thought to the idea of free will/determinism. But isn’t an artistic activity a way of exercising free will when I am choosing the time and the place to work? Or is it a part of my life formed by early experience and inherited trait? Since today, the excitement of creating art is still alive, I must imagine that there is something beyond the ordinary at work. Otherwise, how can I or anyone make sense of these so-called creative urges.

The prominent psychologist, Erich Fromm said, “Creativity requires the courage to let go of certainties.” I can definitely agree that there is something going on, something that can’t be defined simply. Is this the burden of creativity. Even though, with computerized images, I can experiment and travel in different directions as I please, yet I am at the beck and call of something that seems beyond my everyday life. The certainties are indeed left behind.

After all, Albert Einstein said “The secret to creativity is knowing how to hide your sources.” Free will is something that comes and goes. You see, as for those sketchbooks, there are many hidden meanings and references to my life at the time of the piece. I carefully dated each, and can recall what caused the piece to happen, what compulsion made me drop all else and draw. I can see that a theme would appear and reappear years later in another book, on another page. But the reasons are well-hidden, sometimes even to me.

There are times when I don’t feel creative. Other times, though, like an unbidden thought, it pushes through and takes control of my actions. Is this determinism, or is this simply a lack of free will?

There is no antidote for creativity. One is so overwhelmed by the need to stop and deal with the new drawing, or digital piece, that I can almost say it’s a lack of free will. The fear of making a mistake, of planning one thing and have another thing happen, is a part of creativity for me. As an artist, how do I know this piece or that piece will please others? I don’t. I must rely on and trust my own intuition, and trust that my free will has spoken.

It must be true, what the popular TV show artist Bob Ross said “There are no mistakes, only happy little accidents.”

So, past and future artists, what does free will mean to you?


Presented as part of a UUCMC summer service by SisterCircle, 7/15


The Doctor is In, Well Sort Of

Strap-hanger - vintageGood morning. The snow is still covering everything, but the sun is out and the sky is blue. More seasonable temperatures have prevailed over the struggle of our dear earth to regain her composure despite shrinking ice caps and aberrant jetstreams and warming oceanic currents.

I’m watching MSNBC talk about the minimum wage debate, and have come down on the side of raising the wage to $10.10. I think back on how lucky I was in my youth not that I was hired at way more than that amount 40 years ago, but that I was appreciated for my somewhat superior skills in commerce earned in high school, no less, and honed in college. The fact is, the jobs were simply there. I could pick and choose and move and shake, while holding down an apartment, car, two cats, and various drains on my resources, not to mention travel and partying.

Anyway, back to my topic. Mom needs a prescription refilled, and through a comedy of errors (hearing aids not used; lack of focus on medical facts and fiction) – it fell on me to contact and negotiate that refill, since it entailed a slight modification of the pharmaceutical due to exorbitant prices and not being on the insurance formulary. Long story.

Evening of the first day. 4:25 PM. The office is closed. The office opens at 8 AM. Call tomorrow. Thank you, answering service.

Morning of the next day 8 AM. The office is closed today. Well, it’s not an emergency, thank goodness. No need to celebrate with the office for a day off.

Morning of the following day. 8 AM. Call to office. Actually it is 8:01 AM. They are just walking in. Give them about 15 minutes to “settle in” and call back.


Flashback. I’m on the public bus from central Jersey to Port Authority in NYC. It is 7:30 AM. I’ve been up since 5:30, dressed, walked my dog, ate breakfast, piled onto the commuter bus. It’s 8:50. I flash my ID card (if it’s past 9/11), buy my coffee, get on the elevator and trudge through labyrinthine hallways where even some people have been working overnight, to my desk. Sometimes I bid farewell to my overnight coverage, an actor or transient who gets really good money for that time of day, and clear my desk for the days’ priorities.

I don’t give a thought on holding on to another 15 or 20 minutes to “settle in.” If that were true, wouldn’t I get there at 9:15 or 9:30 AM instead of picking up the first phone call that arrives at 9 AM?

In fact, my first New Jersey job was so freaking phone-oriented, I barely had time to transcribe documents until early afternoon. The phone is the lifeblood. The phone is the main means of communication for clients to the service provide, in this case, a freaking physician. Someone who spent like 10 years earning the title and position only to have the front lines blocking what the title stands for. Patient care.

So at 8:09 AM another call and another request to wait for the staff to settle in. Well, staffie-poo I’ve been waiting TWO WHOLE DAYS to ask a simple question. And what about these hand-helds and speaker phones? What do they do, are they mere paperweights? Do their patterns match the doorknobs that operate them!

So, time for another call. Hope I’ve given enough time for removal of snowboots, gloves, scarves, application of lipstick, chit chat about children, buttering the corn muffin, sipping coffee (or tea). And the royal spin on the office chair to answer the first call, the first of I’m sure, many, who have been trying to reach the doctor for days now.

Let’s go workers!