The Flash of Perception or the Workings of Creativity

The fleeting flash of perception or the workings of creativity is the centerpiece of The Practice of Contemplative Photography . If we are deeply involved, we encounter it more often and our awareness deepens. We also call it a creative accident or creative moment.

These moments are around us and cannot be stopped. Their context and content may vary greatly but they share basic elements. The perceiving occurs suddenly, is unexpected, brilliant and clear and lasts for the fraction of a second. When it happens, one knows immediately what needs to be done and one does it without hesitation, without any fumbling. It is a seamless action without reflecting upon it. We experience it as a flash or shaft of light that comes from no-where. It is not a light we can see with the physical eyes like we see the light of the sun. It is the light of discovery that opens up a new perspective, a new way of seeing.

A trick of the mind? A pure accident? Creativity at work? A design of heaven?

Tricksters in aboriginal societies were agents of change. They were a-moral, had no shame and therefore did not follow a prescribed moral code. Tricksters shocked or mocked the prevailing order in novel ways, providing openings for change in an otherwise closed system. In a way they provided a breath of fresh air. The trickster tore apart a densely knit social fabric and showed an escape route, a way out. Irrespective of outcome the trickster upsets any system and may get caught in his own traps. He may be wise or dumb but he is always ready to play with new possibilities, opening up new horizons.

Lewis Hyde suggests that the trickster-activities have equivalents in our society. For example a farmer may discover a pot of gold or some other treasure buried in his fields. His “lucky find” or its twin brother, the “unlucky loss” may be a discovery or a life changer. The same may be true for “bad luck”, “smart luck” or “dumb luck”, “happy, tragic or creative accident”, “accidental gift”, or “lucky break”.

Like the Flash of Perception these equivalents can deeply penetrate us, fill us with joy or lead to painful discoveries or make fools of ourselves. They have the power to transform us. I see them as unexpected gifts. We can either shrug them off or allow them to work on us and transform our way of seeing and living. Like the trickster, they poke a hole in a tightly controlled fabric of conventional thinking and seeing and let a natural and spontaneous intelligence shine through.

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