Virat Swarup

Trinity blast
Los Alamos National Labs

Today is the 67th anniversary of the first successful atomic explosion, in the in section of the southern New Mexico desert known as Jornada del Muerto, “Journey of the Dead Man,” or more precisely, day’s journey through the landscape of death.

J. Robert Oppenheimer, the director of the Trinity Project and father of the A-Bomb, is supposed to have quoted the Bhagavad Gita as he witnessed the explosion: “I am become death the destroyer of worlds.” More likely, his actual words on the dead man’s ground were “It worked.” (The Trinity Test Director, physicist Kenneth Bainbridge, is supposed to have remarked, “Now we are all sons of bitches.”)

J Robert Oppenheimer
J. Robert Oppenheimer, public domain.

The quotation from the Gita was a retrospective word-shaping during an interview afterwards, perhaps the only way for this erudite man to express the power of the singular experience. That these words were uttered in the Jornada del Muerto is now a modern-era myth — and an apt one. Making myths is an ongoing human psychic activity, and has a name: mythopoiesis, meaning “myth-making.” The more exact etymology to the Greek words from which the term was coined in the 19th century would be: “mouth-making” — the creation of inspired, memorable and therefore powerful words. All of the ancient Vedas are about powerful word-making, the poetry of creation and, even before eyes were present to see, about the powerful primacy of sound, of vibration, of energy waves.

Virat Swarup is the Sanskrit term meaning, “divine appearance of the god, in unimaginable power.” It appears in the Bhagavad Gita, which is a long dialogue between the hero Arjuna and his charioteer and friend, Krishna, who is an avatar of the supreme god Vishnu, who is both world-creator and destroyer. Arjuna is tired of so much death, and is questioning the ethics of his participation in the continued and seemingly endless killing in the long and bloody family war that is the center of the massive epic Mahabharata. At the climax of their extended dialogue, Krishna reveals himself in his exalted god-form, the Virat Swarup. It is Krishna who speaks the words that Oppenheimer remembered, then or later, as the only words that could express his experience.

The message that Krishna conveys to Arjuna in the Gita is that we all have the responsibility to act in accordance with our gifts  — Arjuna was the best killer — within the context of the unimaginably huge tapestry wherein which each of our destinies is but a single yet significant thread.

Consider too, that mythopoeisis  — the creation of new myths  — is divinely inspired as well. Nor is Arjuna’s story quite so simple as his decision, in that moment, to honor the commitment to kill, for now, and to honor the logic of that particular talent. Arjuna’s story was not complete, and ultimately, he chose a different ending.

Nor is any of our stories quite so simple, nor, for now at least, at an end. And, we can choose how we commit to continue, or alter, it. And, how we wish it to end.

Simurgh by Cheryl De Ciantis
“Simurgh” by Cheryl De Ciantis

Common Misconceptions About Creativity

Here are the most common misconceptions about creativity. If any of these are your own assumptions, you may be limiting your creativity (and that of others around you).

  1. Creativity means being original. Everybody wants “out-of-the-box” thinking, the WOW ideas that come from seemingly nowhere, have never been done before, and change everything. That’s great, when it happens (and if the resources are available to make something happen as a result). So, what about being creative “inside the box”? Especially if budget is limited, people and resources scarce and time is pressing? Re-thinking something we did before with just a tad of thinking differently creates new products and processes every day. Some of us tend by nature toward out-of-the-box thinking; some are the opposite. Very often, one perspective needs the other to get to something new that works. Be on the lookout for both kinds of creative thinkers and get them together, often.
  2. Being creative means what you come up with is useful. Plenty of ideas that eventually lead to ground-breaking innovation sit around for a long time until they find an application. On the other hand, what we expect is what we usually get more of. History is full of examples of creative innovations that were, at first, thought to be useless because they didn’t fit today’s agenda. Look for ways to protect the “useless” ideas and put them away for safe keeping. If they’re not useful now, they might come in handy at just the right time. Sometimes, just stretching the creative muscle for the heck of it by doing something the boss might think is useless frees up mindspace for other, productive things. Sometimes those things can lead to surprising results, now or later. But, creativity is what it is. It doesn’t necessarily lead to anything at all. Frequently it leads to unintended consequences and unimagined benefits. It doesn’t come from directives to be creative. It doesn’t have a use. It just is.
  3. Creativity comes from creative problem solving processes. There are a lot of creative problem solving processes that provide helpful structures for loosening up our thinking, shifting the paradigm, and getting people to step away from negative judgments for a short while and let it all flow. But creativity thrives in the wild, regardless of what kind of creative animal you are, and is fed by passion. Put people on the track of what they are energized by and creativity will flow.
  4. Creativity comes from talent. Often the case, but talent is too often wasted. And the people who assume they can’t be creative use it as an excuse not to try things. Creativity comes far more from people who question their assumptions, about themselves and their abilities and how they add value. True. it’s far easier to learn something when you have natural talent. So, what’s your talent?
  5. Being labeled “creative” is always a compliment. (Isn’t it?) In fact, you may have experienced a time when it wasn’t. Especially if people around you think that creativity always means thinking out of the box, and out of the box can be scary and threatening if a new idea is asking for things to change too much, too quickly. What’s more to the point is discovering not whether (because you are) but how you are creative and how your creative animal likes being fed. You need too to be able to see how people around you are creative and get them the care and feeding they need. The labeling part is not too helpful. Finding out how everyone is creative is helpful. It can take a lot of creativity just to get across a busy street. If we all couldn’t do that in some way or another, we wouldn’t be here.

So, being productive means getting a handle on creativity.

Everyone is creative. It’s up to you to figure out how and get people with different creative styles together.

Creativity is energy. It’s not a product. It can lead to new things in the real world when the right conditions are in place. These conditions can vary depending on who you are want you want to do and what kinds of resources you may have.

The best process for getting creativity juiced up is to get people juiced up. It’s that simple (and that difficult).

There are a lot of hidden talents out there that need discovering. There are all kinds of ways to do it. The most important thing is to find out what kinds of natural talents you, and your people, possess. Start asking questions, find out what turns people on. Almost no matter what it is, there are ways to get some of it.

Go for it. Find ways to feed your own creativity. Find out what you really want to learn and go after it. When you are giving energy to what you really want, creativity is a natural outcome. As natural as breathing.

We all do it.