Chaos and Creativity
I’d like to tell you a story of a man who brought order to chaos with his words.
This man had a speech to give the next day in Washington DC, so he spent hours polishing and polishing the language so it would hit at all the right points, and avoid unnecessary conflict. The day came and the man started his speech working from the script he worked so hard to perfect. But after six or seven minutes, the man could tell his speech lacked something...it was too polished, it lacked connection with the people listening.
Embracing Chaos and Creativity
So, he did something scary, and a little chaotic: he went off-script.
Immediately, people started re-engaging with him, and then a woman named Mahalia Jackson cried out to him, “Tell them about the dream, Martin!” She’d heard Martin’s dream before, and thought the thousands should hear it. And that's what he did on August 28, 1963, Martin Luther King Jr. gave a speech at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington DC that has become one of the most well-known speeches of all time.
I first heard this story on a podcast episode my friend shared with me. The episode’s name was “Why Disorder May Be Good for Us.” You should look it up. The idea was simple: for some reason, people often create at their best when they’re under pressure, facing the unexpected.
This idea has helped me understand creativity a little better. I still hate creating things when I’m under pressure or when the outcome is uncertain -- I’m a planner. But I’ve come to realize that one way to define creativity is the act of bringing order to chaos.
We don’t have to look far to see this principle in Scripture. The opening chapter of Genesis says, “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. The earth was without form and void, and darkness was over the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters” (1:1-2).
Notice the phrasing “without form and void” -- that’s chaos. And what God did over the next six days was bring order to it all. We call that creativity. And when sin entered the world and introduced more chaos into the cosmos, what God did in Christ is reorder the fabric of the universe; we call this redemption, or creativity.
I like how Ray Stedman refers to redemption in creative terms. God "wants to take the ugly stain of sin that has damaged our lives and transform it through His divine artistry into wholeness and beauty" (Ray Stedman on Leadership, 158).
As you know, God alone isn't creative. Dorothy Sayers, C.S. Lewis, and Scripture have helped me see that all people are creative. Why? Because we’re all created in the image of the Creator.
Want to hear more about the call to creativity? Join the discussion on the Learning in Wartime podcast.
Dane Bundy is president of Stage & Story and principal of the Secondary School at Providence Academy, a classical Christian school in Johnson City, TN.