Essay: Rocks Can Speak

When I was a very young lad, one day as I was walking along a well-worn path, I noticed a stone of interesting size and shape. The stone briefly entered my short span of attention, as did many things lying about my undiscovered world at that age. I don’t recall many other details about my surroundings that day, but they no longer matter.

That was the first time a stone was not just another rock lying among other random bits of littered scree. Certainly, similar discoveries have occurred thousands of times throughout my life while walking, running, hiking, exploring, or just hanging out (thinking or not). This was a simple event that works as my metaphor for many other life events involving discovery, reason, and doing.

The rock was just lying there among others, perhaps for a thousand years or more. I wasn’t yet thinking in geological or historical terms. Stones have served many purposes after they were formed millions, perhaps billions, of years ago. There it was on the ground with others just where my eye located it. It had probably been moved around in one fashion or another over the centuries. I had no way of knowing, nor did I care. Even before approaching it, I was mentally making my I saw it first claim.

Living organic things come and go. Almost all life forms have appeared for a time and then were gone. Over 99 percent of life is extinct. Some rocks may contain fossilized records of past lives, but most are just inorganic minerals. I was not the only child who saw rocks, sticks, or other items as things naturally intended to be thrown about. Getting the right rock and throwing it brings a feeling of success. Skipping rocks on water is a universal rite of passage.

Looking around at the organic things today, I realize that most are less than 100 years old, and less than 50 in current forms. The complexities of the laws of thermodynamics (physics) change things, but we only see the now.

Neither I nor the stone said anything, Rocks don’t talk or hear in the animal sense. But nature can speak to us through both organic living things and through inanimate objects, such as rocks and fossils.

As I moved, the rock played its role as a lifeless stone like billions of similar objects covering the surface of the Earth. Rocks are infinitely expert at going with the flow. River rocks spend so much time tumbling in the roll of water they lose their edge and become rounded. The rock I saw did not sparkle, twinkle, or do anything spectacular. But I saw it. I squatted and half bent over so I could pick it up with my hand. That was many years ago.

More recently, I picked up another rock – my first in years. I carefully examined it, top, bottom, and all sides. One learns that by picking things up, especially rocks, one must carefully examine the item to ensure it is a lone stone, and not one littered with objectionable attachments. It must be just the boy, or now the man, an old man, and the rock with no another surprises.

While I didn’t bother to analyze it, the rock was local Austin limestone, or chalk rock, which is said to have formed in the window of 100 to 200-million years ago. It didn’t matter, and at the time, what I was looking at was just an old rock. Or was it?

Ideas are like stones. Once you pick one up, you must examine it, and only then decide what to do with it. As with stones, I have dropped ideas, put them in my pocket for later pondering, or threw them. When throwing ideas or stones, one must distinguish between discarding, sharing, or targeting. The first is simply throwing it away or back to where it came from. The second is communing by tossing it to someone else. But the third is capturing the idea or stone for our own creative purposes. Like rocks, ideas can speak to us. We just need to listen.

Look both ways for material and ideas. That’s what creativity is all about.
Toss some back to the gods, share some with others, or use them within your own art.
Mind the gaps. Look there for those hidden gems.

Like rocks, ideas may be too big.

Final Topics on Creativity

Creativity and aging

There’s too much information available to cover this area adequately. My research indicates that we become less creative as we age. Perhaps we do. But I would not say ‘less.’

creative old2

We change with age: physically, mentally, and emotionally. I think we also change creatively. I don’t think we become less creative so much as our creativity becomes altered as we adjust to all changes in our lives. Certainly, significant aging and mental problems (dementia) and physical illness have their effect.

Blocks to creativity

Creativity is an attitude. Our curiosity sleeps with our creativity. The more curious we are, the more creative we seem to be.

creative old3There are too many blocks to mention each one. We all sometimes have blocks.

When I tell people that I am not as creative as they are, they often want to fix me – to give me advice on how to be more like them (do as they do, believe as they do, be as ‘open’ as they are). They would also advise me to be myself, blinking not an eye at the irony.

I don’t say that I’m not creative. Of course I am. Everybody is creative. But we are not all the same. My creative nature is more sensitive to that of other people, thus they are my preferred source of inspiration. I confess: I struggle with creativity. Many of us do. So what?

I think the blocks to our creativity begin at birth. We are born creative. As far as we know, it is a uniquely human trait. Children are wild with the creative process (in most cases) based upon the behavior we can see. We don’t know what we can’t see. We do not know the thoughts of others. We only hear what they tell us. Over time, our creativity struggles with life, society, judgement, our own human condition and nature, as well as that of others.

We don’t know what creativity is (no, we really don’t). We only know when we have it or when we do not. We can see it in the work or behavior of other people, but we cannot see into their minds and hearts. Like quality, we know it when we see it.

Value of music in creativity

I can read while listening to classical music (no lyrics), but no other genre. I must write in virtual silence. But I also find music as stimulating to my own creative process as anything. I have no idea how it would go if I did what a so many other artists do with music. But I know this: it helps in two areas.

One is in the magic of creativity itself. The other is in the execution of the work. Think of these two aspects as you watch Jonas Gerard (age 75) in the video below, creating with live music at his studio in Ashville, North Carolina.

“The rhythmic influence of music is an important part of his (Jonas Gerard’s) artistic process…. The music allows him to work unpredictably and intuitively, kicking it into another mode and bringing it home to a subconscious space where he can respond to the rhythm, and the direction the paintings suggest to him.” (from

The following is good regarding music.

“In addition to stimulating creativity, music can help contribute to the development of a more creative mind.”

“Creativity is within each of us and the very reason the world exists.” ~ Frank Fitzpatrick, Why Music, Part 6: Music and Creativity

creative old1Einstein was interested in both creativity and music. He tied the two, even suggesting he would be a musician, were he not a physicist.

“If I were not a physicist,” he once said, “I would probably be a musician. I often think in music. I live my daydreams in music. I see my life in terms of music … I get most joy in life out of music.” ~ Albert Einstein from Alice Calaprice, The Expanded Quotable Einstein (as quoted by Fitzpatrick)

Afflatus [əˈflātəs/] (n)

Afflatus is a divine creative impulse or inspiration. The word literally means inspiration. It does not refer to the usual sudden originality, but to the staggering and stunning blow of a new idea, an idea that the recipient may be unable to explain.

Add music to this and creativity becomes limitless, in my opinion.

Duende [do͞oˈendā/] (n)

Your Duende?
Your Duende?

Duende is the mysterious power of art to deeply move us. It’s a quality-level of passion and inspiration that may be felt by anyone. It can be the artist as they work. It can be the observer of the piece, the reader of the text, the listener of the music, the watcher of the act or dance.

When you are next moved like this, speak to the spirit within you, “Ah, my Duende, you feel it too?”


Mental health and Creativity

This is confusing, and for some of us, maybe a bit dangerous. No one is more artistic, creative, or on a higher creative plane because they suffer a mental malady. We can be both mentally ill and creative. How one effects the other is unknown.

There is sufficient research to indicate some correlation between the two. But nothing indicates that being drunk, high, depressed, or any other mental condition causes people to be more creative. Normal healthy people can be, and are creative. Throughout history, the same can be said for troubled artists and creative souls. It’s the difference between ‘because of’ and ‘in spite of.’creativity1

Letting Go

I can now move all books on creativity from my writing table to the bookshelf from whence they came. I want to thank Elizabeth Gilbert for Big Magic and I am grateful to my friends and fellow artists/writers who suggested it. While I still have a lot of issues with what Gilbert proposed, I wouldn’t have taken the time to do the work had I been in total agreement with her.

From whatevCreativity2er source your creative ideas flow, may they flow to you in abundance. May you be orgasmic, chilled and thrilled with ideas, concepts, and plans. May you make the best of all your days being creative and doing your thing (art, writing, music, etc.) and enjoying the universal gifts shared by others. May the spirit of duende haunt your heart and mind, thus bringing you to a spiritual bliss as only we humans can experience.