I was getting tired working on my writing, schoolhouse and what not, so I wondered what other creators do in such circumstances. Simple as it seems, I found a lot of depth in various answers. I reread a number of creation stories and artists’ bios. The Genesis story in particular offered new light. My initial question was: How did God feel after he created the world? Was he tired? Take it from me fiction writers are always trying to create the world. And of course the process, however delighting, is tiring, not to say consuming. So I went to the Bible where we are told God made everything after his kind, and the human after his image, after his likeness. That portion tickled me so much that I went to it again to figure out what could be the meaning. On the surface it seems basic, but I couldn’t resist going deeper.
If you love KJV the way I do, the verse says in Genesis 1:25, And God made the beast of the earth after his kind, and cattle after their kind, and every thing that creepeth upon the earth after his kind: and God saw that it was good. Wow. My first interpretation was that the beast of the earth was after God’s kind. Quickly I imagined ‘Tiger, tiger, burning bright…’ that William Blake poem that is a favorite of mine for always. And the verse therefore seemed a celebration of the ‘animal’ and everything that makes it or holds it together. And so I saw God fiery, very bright and fascinating. But when I came to the part that says and cattle after their kind, I wondered whether he left a part of himself out when it came to cattle. Why not say after his kind the way it’s said for the beast, man and other creatures? Is it because cattle generally is/are tame? Easily domesticated? Does God therefore appreciate the animal nature and recognizes it as his kind or was I running wild in my imagination?
I went back to the beast portion and re-understood the beast of the earth after his kind to mean the beast’s kind. But it didn’t erase the first interpretation. If anything, it co-existed alongside it and emphasized the different levels at which one can understand and interpret words. That’s the beauty of language; the fascination that keeps me interested in reading and writing. The fantasy really that given the ‘right words,’ by right words meaning those that have the capacity to transport me somewhere and tickle my imagination, I could live and thrive in such a world because it is beautiful, because it appeals to me at various levels, and because as a fiction writer I strive to create such words and worlds. It’s at once real and meta-real, physical and spiritual, mental and metaphysical. Am avoiding adding the word transcendental because of its heavyweight—when actually it embodies lightness—and it’s purely based on personal experience. Transported works fine for me. But reader feel free to think of your own verbs such as transform, transfigure…for this context.
I came to the conclusion that what God celebrated was the beauty he found in what he’d created. And God saw that it was good is repeated again and again after every creation he made. It’s suggestive at this point that he didn’t actually know that what he was creating was going to turn out good. What a comfort to me! What a humbling experience. Francis Bacon, the painter, mentioned something close when once asked about his creative process. He didn’t really know how each painting would turn out but he was optimistic the moment he had an idea. He had the canvas under control but the image could go either way, if it turned out good, beautiful. That teaches me a thing about how an artist ought to exercise imagination and control. Like God you can’t or shouldn’t control the whole process. You have to give room for surprises. I think that brings the greatest pleasure and release if in the end you can look at what you’ve created and find it beautiful. And God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good, Genesis 1:31.
What I ask myself is: was God tired after creating the world? That aspect at first is unclear. Genesis 2:2 only says: And on the seventh day God ended his work which he had made; and he rested on the seventh day from all his work which he had made. Perhaps it’s implied in the word Rest. You only rest when you’re tired, no? If you still have the energy and enthusiasm you keep rolling. Even after you’ve completed something important, something else comes up, which is what happened to God. But after his rest (I’ll get to that point soon.) We are not told the nature of his rest. Sleep? Yoga? Some sport or simply vacation? Since the world was still new and his, in the absence of Disney and the like, rest must have been to his hammock or bed. In fact I imagine God sleeping. His eyes closed in total tiredness, welcoming tender sleep and rest contentment.
Preacher folks will want to tell us that God doesn’t get tired because he is God. Wrong. Genesis reveals that God gets tired and knows how to ‘disappear’ in order to recharge. This is not to start some theological wars and debate. I’m simply appreciating the fact that God rested not only because his work was done, but also because he was tired. We even discover how his work was only continuing anyway, far from being complete. When he woke up, revived and rejuvenated, he realized it was not good that the man should be alone. That is so beautiful! Moral: the work of creating is never really complete. A good artist will keep seeing new things to create, new opportunities, and new choices. Taking profound rest is very important for further good work. Man was the last thing he created before taking a break. Ah, don’t men tire us all. And see what he came up with the next day: something more beautiful than man. But again, this is not to open a can for gender wars. The point is: some creators are loved to the point of worship for spending long hours at work, year in year out without a break. Stress is overlooked, and the harm that long years of toil can do. Consider Michelangelo… My thought is, poor fellow, how might his art have looked had he taken deep rests in between? He went on and on even when he was obviously exhausted, but an artist is an artist is an artist, so he continued to produce works that folks marveled at. How might we have marveled truly had he taken needed rest? Of course the answer will remain unknown. No need to pursue ghosts of might have been. We can only imagine or fail to.
Nowadays whenever I hear complaints about being tired but still having a lot to do, folks basically running here and there like headless chickens, drinking coke, coffee, jumping from plane to plane giving presentations, lectures, readings and what not, all I say before I turn away is, Rest. I don’t add: Who do you think you are?
As for me, I’ve come to relish rest it’s almost gluttonous. I turn off phones, computer, disconnect doorbells, anything and everything and simply sleep. The pay off is worth the extreme. When I bounce back, I’m body mind spirit electric. You’d better not meet me when I return from such rests. I’m looking forward to this weekend especially, knowing it’s Easter break so I can pause from schoolhouse and creation. How about you?