"... then a throb, a pulse, an urge, a flutter of love ñ an impulse or desire in the ocean of consciousness to create and enjoy, a pulse that emanates from everywhere at once. From that initial movement, the whole world comes into being. This ocean of consciousness is the Absolute; the throb is its creative power..."
From a creation hymn of the Kashmiri Hindu Shaivites
In The Beginning: Creation Myths from Around the World was also born in a throb of desire to create and enjoy - just like the world. Adrienne Robinson and I, friends for over thirty years, have collaborated to re-tell and illustrate creation myths of many cultures according to the oldest, most indigenous sources we could find. Oftentimes, it was the fragments and vivid hints off to the side of the more popular versions that lit the way back to a deeper past, and when they rang true, we brought them into the stories.
For three years we read masses of source material, researched cultures and their art forms, and told each other the myths until we could feel our way to the indigenous mind and aesthetic. Adrienne researched the traditional art from each culture, working to interpret respectfully each cultureís style and history in her piece, while I tried to stay true to the meaning and feel for the stories of each culture, in my own language.
Since we live on opposite sides of the country, we would meet periodically in some beautiful place and spend an intensive week together working. On the banks of streams and in leafy woods I would read the new story aloud while Adrienne sat back, eyes closed, watching images flash across her mindís eye. Then the new art piece would reveal itself and, in the course of the week, emerge into the forms pictured here, from masks and felt-fabric capes to rice-paper hangings, wire sculptures and goatskin puppets. Ordinary objects were used - paper, wire, fabrics, nuts, seeds, animal skins ñ to capture the sense of who these people were, and how they understood the creation of the world and their own beginnings.
According to our sources, Creation was not a one-time event, but continues to emerge from the Universal field of potential - called by many names in many cultures - all the time. The Creation never stops speaking, and its language has no bounds. It speaks through all of existence, all the time; it speaks through us.
In these times of disruption and change, it seems that if we are to survive ñ both as a planet and as a species ñ we humans will have to be as flexible, innovative and creative as we can be. What may appear to be fearsome roadblocks in our individual and collective lives might have to be thought of as opportunities to do things differently. Instead of slogging yet again through old, unworkable situations, we might surprise ourselves by dreaming up new solutions to those old problems, re-thinking them from a larger, more experimental perspective. We can use our dilemmas as opportunities to create anew ñ every day in every way ñ the world in which we wish to live.
Adrienne and I discovered just how much fun that was! When we were dreaming up the artworks for these myths, we decided to use ordinary, commonly available materials in extraordinary ways, so that the medium would itself be the message. We wanted to show that the creative process was available to people of every age and place. We wished the artworks to demonstrate that everything in the world is potential material out of which art ñ or life ñ can be created.
The giant spiral for FIRST MOTHER, for example, was made entirely from natural objects picked up during walks, from grains in our kitchens, from the trees in our backyards: seeds, pods, nuts, shells, leaves, bone. Adrienne even included the remains of a waspsí nest that we had, to our stinging misfortune, disturbed during one of our forays! What had been a pile of throwaways became a stunning work of art. As did the wire sculptures depicting the Egyptian god Ptah, and the pre-Celtic Miria, both of which began as an ordinary spool of utility wire from the hardware store. We had the best time! As Adrienne put it, ìIím having so much fun, Iím afraid I might get arrested!î
The Creation Myths here depict the world as beginning in a fathomless, timeless, Void - an ineffable darkness, a nothingness which contains the consciousness to yearn for more. This yearning is what shakes the motionless Void into motion, and that initial movement is what sets the whole thing out of its equilibrium into a shimmying dance of new possibilities. Beings are born from the darkness, and they beget Earth and Sky, mountains and forests. Into their creation emerge plants and animals who slither, crawl, walk, run, swim, fly; who live, laugh, fight, love and die, and beget the next generations of their species to people the Earth.
All these stories seem to be telling us that every one of us is a Creator, all the time, and anything we can imagine can be brought into existence by our having the courage and will to do so.
It is time. By collaborating with each other and collaborating with the Earth, all of us can help create the next phase of this many-layered, multi-dimensioned and miraculous world we call ours.
Carolyn North and Adrienne Robinson
October 11, 2009