As promised, over the next few weeks, I am attempting to give you an overview of a process called Creative Interchange, following the work of my friend, Dr. Charlie Palmgren. Charlie explicates this concept of CI in his book, Ascent of the Eagle, available through Amazon.
Creative Interchange is a way through which you live out of your true original Self to engage with others in an authentic way. This process bears both the fruit of creative collaboration as well as enhancing one’s sense of satisfaction in this thing we call “life”. As Martha Stewart would say, “It’s a good thing.” Her partner, Snoop Dogg would add “Bow wow wow!”
As I wrote last week, the foundation of this process is the notion that all of us are endowed with intrinsic worth. You have value and worth by way of your being in the world. This is not dependent on what you produce, or what you do, but rather, comes with the territory of being human. It’s important to note that this is a radically different version of value than that of our dominant culture which says our worth is tied up precisely in what you do. So this version of life, Creative Interchange, is presenting, and promoting an alternative vision of reality, a sub-version of the way things really are. And with that said, this vision of the world is subversive.
It was subversive when Jesus presented a vision of life that promoted a covenant relationship between each person and God the Creator. The triadic nature of reality is talked about by Jesus when he explained “the way things are” to the people who came to him for answers. He radicalized the notion of loyalty and allegiance to God, as opposed to political systems, even the Roman Empire, and religious systems, even his own Jewish faith. He called it living in the realm of God, or in perhaps more familiar terms, the Kingdom of God.
He also radicalized the notion of our commitment to other persons who share this Creation and are also in relationship to God (whether they know it or not) as our neighbor. This is what makes it more than a mere transactional relationship, in which we are in a convenient arrangement of reciprocity, “I’ll do this for you IF you will do that for me” making the relaltionship “conditional’. That transaction is a contract. Jesus was talking about a covenant that runs deeper, a primal connection of the Creator with persons.
Not only is the primary commitment vertical to the Source of Being, but also, in a horizontal connection, a primary relationship to one’s neighbor. Again, Jesus pushes out the boundaries, the walls of definition, by extending that commitment to all people, ALL, regardless to gender or tribe. He even goes so far as to extend that connection to those who have done you wrong, those who have betrayed you, even to those you may have applied the name of “enemy”. Not in Jesus’ realm of God. “Neighbor” is the operative designation. It is unconditional.
I would pause to remind you that this vision of Jesus, the realm of God, was subversive, to the point that the government and religious leaders of his day, sensed the adversarial nature that his vision posed to their control of things, and so they sought to crush it, to kill it. This cosmic drama played out on a historic stage, winding up with this vision-bearer being ignominiously crucified. We tend to try to forget that part of the story, and soft-sell the “cost” part, with emphasis on the benefits. And so, we act surprised when things turn on us when we finally get serious about this Christ thing, this faith thing, this realm of God thing. If we pause and consider deeply and honestly, we should not be surprised at all. It goes with the gig.
This vision, the realm of God, is what Jesus had trust in. He had faith that this was the Way that led to Eternal Life, and he was willing to lean into life with that trust, even unto death.
Trust is one of four conditions, or values, that make the Creative Interchange process work. It’s part of the alchemical magic that powers a process that is embedded in Creation and is waiting for us to discover it. The other three conditions, or values, are curiosity, connectivity, and tenacity. I’ll be writing about those three in the next few weeks, but today, it’s trust in the spotlight, with the provisional recognition that it’s all four in an synthesis that produces the very juice of life.
Trust. It’s what Erik Erikson named as the basic building block of human development. We begin with our maternal others, in what ever form they take, be it biological, substitute, or absent. The mother is biologically tied to the infant, somatically wired to respond to their baby’s needs. It is within that matrix that the child begins to form an inchoate sense of this strange world he or she has entered. Is this world I am entering trust worthy….or not? That initial image evolves throughout the rest of the person’s life experience.
Here’s a pregnant question: Do you consider yourself a person who natively trusts others, or are you a person who begins your relationship with the assumption that people are not trustworthy? It’s an important question to ask yourself, a moment of possible self-awareness.
For many of us, it’s a mixed bag. One might begin with a guarded trust, and wait and see if the other proves to be trust worthy. Or, one might take a more suspicious starting point, trusting no one until they earn it, perhaps even tossing in a few tests, consciously or unconsciously, along the way. I think it’s important to “come clean” with your self, so that you are not deluded about who you really are. It’s helpful to know your starting point, regardless as to what it is. And, it’s beneficial to know the “cost”, hidden and otherwise, to your being in the world the way that you are choosing to do it.
One of the basic “tests” of one’s trust is whether or not you are willing to expose your true self to the other, that is, are you trusting enough to allow your authentic self to be seen? Most of us are fearful of being rejected by others if we allow them to see the “real me”, and so we construct a mask, or persona, that we present in order to be accepted, valued, even loved. We take our cues as to what “good” looks like from our parents, our families, our neighborhoods, our schools, our religious organizations, and the businesses we work in. The word “culture” is used to describe the cumulative atmosphere of the world in which we live, the assumptions we make about life, and the values that drive us. As we develop, we pick up on the atmosphere in which we live and breathe, and for most of us, it is a developmental process of adapting to that culture, fitting in as we can.
At some point, we may sense that we have been playing a “game”, defined by our families or larger culture, having constructed an inauthentic self that will gain us acceptance. We may get cues, experience stress, sense our inauthenticity to a point that we are troubled. For many people, this moment happens at mid-life, a point that Jung said that a person becomes acutely aware that the time left to live is not as much as one has lived. Succinctly stated, time is running out. It prompts an examination of how one has invested their precious time up to this point, and may bring some changes. Others do it earlier, prompted by tragedy that rubs their noses in the finitude of their humanity early. Others catch on later, some much later. And still others never wake up to the game that they are playing, which is, in fact, a game that’s been played on them.
It then comes down to trust in order to be open with one’s self to another. Trust is fed by the sense of worth that is innate, sometimes buried deep, sometimes hidden. Trust is what funds the courage to lean into life with a kind of confidence that relies on the nature of life itself. This trust shows itself in the way in which you are willing to be with others. Do you trust others enough to really be authentically present, or are you just sending your false self as a “stand-in”?
This really plays itself out when two people, or a group of people are meeting together for an intentional purpose, such as solving a problem, working on a strategy, or trying to creatively engage a dilemma that is confronting a group. Trust is your “ticket to ride” in this playground of human interaction that has the potential to yield fruit for the group’s common life. The odds of innovation increase exponentially when the participants bring an attitude of trust to the engagement. And, similarly, the chance of creativity decrease when people are guarded, playing it safe, risking little, for they do not choose to exercise their capacity to trust.
This is the first of four conditions that make Creative Interchange possible. Without trust, I am not sure the other three matter much. We look at the other three, curiosity, connectivity, and tenacity in the next few weeks. Until then, I invite you to “trust” this process by asking your self, am I a trusting person? Does trust come easy to me, or not? Why might that be so? This is a good starting point to move into the waters of creativity as we explore the phenomena of Creative Interchange.