A few decades ago, I began to use, and build on, a theory I found in Elias Canetti's autobiography, a theory that he developed in opposition to Freud. I've never been able to figure out how it relates to Freud myself, but that's what Canetti said.
Here's my paraphrase of Canetti: People are isolated in their houses. They come out of their houses, come together in groups, in order to connect with others. In order to connect, to become part of a group, each individual must give up some of their armor and, therefore, become more vulnerable.
Here's how I've used that theory: In that vulnerable, more open state, we need to be protected and we want to feel a connection with the performer, as well as with the group. When we go to a play, we want to be engaged in the play, want to feel a connection with the characters, as well as with others in the audience. When we go to a museum or art gallery, we want to feel a connection, through her medium, with the photographer or sculptor. When we read a book, listen to music, we want to connect with the author and the characters, the composer and the musicians. We even feel a connection when we find a new product or come across a new idea. We say, "At last someone has solved my problem."
Any creation, then, can remove, if only for a moment or two, the sense of isolation in those who come in contact with it.
We tend to think of the creators, however, as being alone, isolated in a garret or studio. But it occurred to me this weekend that that's not quite true.
Unless I or a student has a deadline, I don't write or teach on Sundays. I do laundry, vacuum, pay bills - all the things I dislike doing - trusting that my subconscious is working on Monday's writing or teaching. And, perhaps because my childhood Sundays were lonely days, I often feel lonely on Sundays.
But last Sunday, as I was answering emails, I noticed that one of the stories I'd been revising was open on my computer. Oh, I thought, I'll just fix that one sentence. Which led to another and another, while my vacuum lay idle amongst out-of-place furniture in the living room. Later, as I was folding laundry, I realized that my usual Sunday loneliness had evaporated.
Is it possible, then, that the creative act itself comes from the innate need to bond?