Tag Archives: midlife

Why Creativity’s Better Now

I just hit the iTunes back button on Kashmir.

With that as your soundtrack, come with me down a creativity rabbit hole that’s only possible after five-plus decades of journeying.

Tonight I watched a Netflix documentary about legendary bluesman Robert Johnson. That led to dialing into Johnson’s work while I made dinner.

Which led me to some classic rock, which owes its life to guys like Robert Johnson. Which led me to Led Zeppelin and Kashmir, so I could look for Robert Johnson in their guitar and vocals. Which now that I’m a grown up, Kashmir is a really complex effort and much more interesting than most of what passes for today’s pop music (Christian or secular).

Hail the Treasure Trove

I can leapfrog creatively between decades and genres because of what I’ve seen, heard, known, and experienced throughout my whole life. There’s a pool of memories in my mental Rolodex to connect into a new, unforeseen whole.

We live in a world that celebrates the new and the entrepreneurial. That’s not bad. The entrepreneur is going to find a way cut Phoenix’s smog, with a cleaner way to transport us from point A to point B. The entrepreneur is going to cure cancer and the common cold.

I think the world needs both the entrepreneur with the blue-ocean brain, with synapses unsullied by lock-step problem solving, and the treasure trove brain.

I’m only half-baked

It can feel like those of us at mid-life are as done as a bubbled-over strawberry-rhubarb pie. We’ve lived a life full of sweet and sour and somewhere the innards ran over and charred the side of the pan, not to mention the bottom of the oven. What a mess.

But I’m really only half-baked. (OK, maybe three–fifths if I do the math right on average human lifespans.) I recently finished Anthony McCarten’s The Pope, a fascinating comparison/contrast of the path to the papacy of both Benedict and Francis. When Pope Francis was my exact age, he was exiled from Buenos Aires to a corner of rural Argentina in a leadership shakeup. I believe there was a line in the narrative about him sweeping floors at the end of the day at his new gig. In his late 50s. Somehow he persevered and ended up Pope.

If I go back to the beginning, I can remind myself that nothing is permanent. Even the biggest setbacks, the ones that left me discouraged and doing something menial, didn’t destroy me. Instead, the swerves from the life I imagined became building blocks I use to construct the life in front of me.

Sometimes that means I mentor someone younger, sometimes it’s walking with a friend my own age going through something I encountered years ago. And sometimes that’s just a piece of fun, like envisioning how I could pull up some classic rock and hear bits of the Mississippi Delta in the chord patterns.

Next up? I think I’ll see if speaking Spanish helps me understand Italian opera.