So, once I knew I was going to see Ravi Shankar, my eyes were open for anything in the media about him. Sure enough, just a couple of weeks before the concert there was a profile piece in the paper. It’s a fascinating story, his life. But what really caught my eye was Mr Shankar’s final comment to the interviewer as he left the room. His remark was about his one regret in life:
‘I wish I had been more creative. My mind is always working on new ideas. I wish I had done more.’
This, mind you, from a genius who was about to turn 90 and had been writing, composing, and performing, since he was in his 20s. And before that, he was an accomplished dancer. His creative output, his gifts to the world, put most of us so-called creatives to shame.
But, of course, many of us creative persons often think we have never done enough; there are always ideas that don’t find their way into the light of day. And if an artist as prolific and gifted as Shankar feels like that, what does it say about those of us who aren’t quite as productive? What about all the time we spend complaining along the lines of, ‘I can’t create/ There’s nothing to create/I’m blocked/The ideas won’t come/blah blah blah.
Well, it does soun like blah blah doesn’t it? Here we are, blessed with the opportunities every day to create, at least some relevant skills (and talent), and with the resources to put them to work, and still we go on about how hard it all is. Well, let me say that from now on, I am going to spend a lot less time complaining about not being able to create, and a lot more time on actually creating—or at the very least, focusing on the creative process whatever that might entail.
Now, I know what you’re thinking; it’s not always so easy, creativity isn’t a tap you can just turn on and off at will. Well, that may be true, but I wonder what would happen if we really make an effort to devote ourselves to our art/craft/whatever we call it? We might still be blocked, we might still have trouble translating our ideas into words or pictures (or whatever we do), but at least we are going to be on the right track. We will be in the zone, as they say.
Not only that, but we will have no cause to regret not being creative. Of course, I think what Mr Shankar is really saying is that he hasn’t had enough time to manifest all the creative ideas he’s had. And it is certain for most of us that this will always be the case. But if we devote our lives to our art (and that means spending time thinking, reflecting, observing, being—all the things creative people do to live a creative life, even if it's not actually 'creating'), then what we are meant to produce, we will. Simple as that really. Or at least I am thinking it is simple.
Once, again some years ago, I was writing in my journal about just this topic and I found myself writing the sentence:
Oh, My Art, I Vow to Thee
Now I am grateful that I have the opportunity to at least try to honour that vow, every day. It’s as if I can’t do anything else. After all, what’s the point of a vow (promise) if we aren’t going to do all we can to keep it?
Dedicated to Pandit Ravi Shankar, who has left our world to continue on his journey. His gifts to us, however, will always be with us. We are better for having him share some time with us.