By Krista E. Hughes
It hangs on the wall of my office, scripted in calligraphy by a friend’s sister:
“My greatest commitment is to the process of creative transformation rather than any one of its products.” So says Dr. John B. Cobb, Jr., the process-relational world’s great sage.
It hangs as a reminder. For while I believe in my heart of hearts that such a commitment has its priorities right, I do a fairly poor job of living out this commitment. In my job. In my scholarship. As a new mother. As a citizen, whether local or global.
I know I am not alone in this. The world rewards us for producing, both the tangible and the intangible. We might blame this pressure to “make something of ourselves” on our hyper-competitive, neoliberal context—and probably should to a degree—but the need to prove ourselves worthy is an ancient human affliction.
Indeed, this deep-seated affliction has given rise to significant spiritual insight across the world’s wisdom traditions, from Martin Luther’s awareness that grace is a gift that cannot be earned to the Buddha’s counsel to focus on the intentions of our actions rather than the fruits. Neither of these means we should ignore what we put out into the world, of course. But both suggest that an exclusive focus on outcomes creates a sort of distortion.
How does one live out, in embodied ways, a commitment to creative transformation? For me it means trying to be present in the moment: present to the person I’m with, present to the task at hand, present to the very doing. In being “present to the doing,” I somehow shift from doing for doing’s sake to doing as being… or in process language doing as becoming.
In concrete ways, then, it means writing because I have something meaningful to share—and not worrying about how the critics (who come in many guises) will receive it. It means going with the flow with my children—and not trying to remember what that parenting book said about hard situations (not even the “mindful parenting” book!). It means admitting to ignorance about something when speaking with a new colleague—and not clinging to a fear that they will thereby consider me incompetent.
Creative transformation as a mode of being is challenging because it promises to leave us vulnerable. This is a natural consequence of the openness that creative transformation requires. It is akin to the openness of early childhood, when so much is new and interesting. What might it mean to come each day, to paraphrase Jesus, “as a child”? To practice such radical openness?
How do you commit to creative transformation? How are you present to the process?