"Faith is the bird that feels the light and sings when the dawn is still dark. 
In effect, the people who change our lives the most begin to 
sing to us while we are still in darkness. If we listen to 
their song, we will see the dawning of a new part of ourselves."

Rabindranth Tagore

Existential Intelligence is the sensitivity and capacity to engage questions about human existence – how we got here, whether we have a purpose, and whether there is meaning in Life. Existential intelligence embraces the exploration of aesthetics, philosophy, religion and values like beauty, truth, and goodness. A strong existential intelligence allows human beings to see their place in the big picture, be it in the classroom, community, world, or universe.

First proposed by Howard Gardner, existential intelligence is one of nine theorized intelligences and is considered to be amoral – that is, it and the other eight categories of human intelligence can be used either constructively or destructively.

Saturday, April 3, 2010


“What rekindles desire? If desire is crucial, and it is, then it is crucial that you learn how to keep desire burning and how to reignite it when it burns out.
What are your thoughts on the kindling and rekindling of desire within the context of your creative life?”

Eric Maisel

This quote from an essay I read recently, probably speaks to anyone who is attempting a creative life:

With all due respect, how many of us are actually aware of any regular experience of desire in our creative lives? By that I mean the kind of burning desire that fuels a profound creative existence? Reading the essay only reminded me of how few people I encounter – as students, colleagues or friends –who seem to have any sense of desire for/of Anything. The disconnect is palpable. Perhaps our first task as artists is the job of sifting through our unique haystack of total bullshit everyday stuff – worries, concerns, ideas, fears, distractions – in order to get down to the single needle of desire in our lives. Could it be that there are two sorts of artists – those who don’t have any connection to what desire is – and those who are not reading this because they are already ON IT, instead of spending time reading an essay by someone well meaning like me?

And obviously there are periods within a single creative life when an artist is disconnected from desire. So we’re back to the original burning question – what happens then? How do we get desire back?

Which led to thinking about competition, and this observation – desire is often rooted in some competitive impulse. To be the Best. To beat someone else. To Win – whether winning is represented by an award, or a show opportunity or financial remuneration.

I don't watch TV but you can't escape the aura of popular reality shows where the motivating desire is to beat out everyone else. To win the prize, whatever it may be. Competition propels artists forward. It’s a dressed up version of survival of the fittest, no matter what the party clothes look like. I know plenty of artists who never work from a deep-seated personal place. Instead work is driven by the latest theme of a show they want to enter. Or to colors they know a judge tends to prefer. What is desire in that context? Is there a pure desire as opposed to ego driven desire?

It would be disingenuous, but easy, to say to a student or friend - Make a list of all the people you want to impress. Who has slighted you in the past? Who's opinion do you value? You could work from that place and actually be filled with DESIRE – but is it desire or is it the competitive ego doing the work? Is it the little person inside doing the work or is it the BIG expansive person inside doing the work?

I need more thought time where this is concerned. My impulse is always to encourage someone to do the work because it is the right work to do, even when it feels unpopular or uncomfortable. Now I think maybe that’s wrong. An artist or writer won't necessarily make a killing (or even a decent sale) on a set of paintings or a series of short stories just because the work is good. Plenty of bad art is effectively marketed. Oh yeah... the marketing part. How to be both sensitive artist or writer and competent - even aggressive - marketer of work? And so begins a new creative challenge.

It’s all challenging. There isn't an easy answer to any of it.


  1. Goodness, what an interesting can of worms! Desire is what makes us what we are as artists, I think. Even for a contest, I think an artist would relate the subject to a particular interest--the light, the volume, position in space, whatever intrigues the individual. Competition, I think, cerebrally, should be with the self, though I am more competitive than I would prefer about many things. I am learning to value my own opinion more and more, to rely on my gut when something doesn't seem as effective as I would like rather than e-mailing it to all my friends for their opinions. It's MY art and it needs to come from ME/ You asked a lot of questions, I've commented on two--Desire? Definitely yes! and Impressing people? Nice when it happens, but it shouldn't be the goal, in my eyes at least. I may be seeing things in a simplistic light, but that's how it is today with the mountains framed by the laundry. Thank you for getting my brain in high gear.

  2. I know my best work comes when I am overtaken by a creative urge that cannot be ignored. These are the times when I am pricked by an idea and I can't NOT do it. Other times, I feel like I am just going through the motions. The work may still be good, but I don't FEEL as good about it. But then, during "dry times", artists are advised to "Just DO the Work". Where does that leave desire?

  3. It seems that personal financial need can often be a deterrent to satisfying an artist's creative desires. Realistically, you may need to make what sells. If you have additional resources, you can follow what "you desire" to create as opposed to what the general public wants. I wonder if this is just all part of life, who can do any work or job and always do exactly what they want to do??? I guess some people can. Just some thoughts.

  4. I volunteer at a local art center and have done art to enter in our shows for years. At the end of last year I felt like I didn't do as much art that I want to do. Though I did feel inspiration for the art that I did. This year I decided to just not enter shows and concentrate on what I want to do. I embellished a jean jacket for myself which I call my Labor of Love. I discovered that I really enjoy hand stitching and the work involved to make the discharged shibori fabric used in my art pieces. I love the process, if others like the art all the better but I love the art. I think that is what counts.