I was first introduced to the work of Abraham H. Maslow through Elaine Fine's marvelous blog, Musical Assumptions. Maslow's philosophy 'The Creative Attitude' made a deep impact on me, for he reinforced what I intuitively feel about the creative process. I know that when I teach violin students, and when I parent my own children, I feel the responsibility first and foremost of cracking open the door to their imaginative powers. I have come to believe that Maslow is spot on with his hierarchy of needs. I do not pretend to be a psychologist. But I know that every human being has the potential to transcend the mundane and ordinary by way of the imagination; and at every moment, a human is in the process of becoming or self-actualizing, as Maslow writes. I would also admit that when a creative talent is squelched or repressed, the individual becomes frustrated, I imagine in a similar vein to sexual repression. This is why, I believe, that my late mother suffered from the affliction known as stage parenting. She needed a release from the drudgery of domestic chores, the withholding of her potentialities, as she was an exceedingly bright and talented individual on so many levels, but her gifts were suppressed from childhood. I became the vessel from which sprang forth her musical ideas. But in the act of teaching, parenting, and writing, I feel myself in the state of self-actualization, of becoming, of Entelechy, much like Goethe espouses in his Weltanschauung.
The act of creating, whether by way of gardening, sewing, painting, dancing, writing, or playing an instrument, enables a person to get lost in the moment. "Lose yourself," my mother would say to me before I walked on the stage. And after closing my eyes and banishing the audience from sight, I sometimes could. On a few occasions, I'd undergo what Maslow describes as the peak experience. After those instances, I felt wholly empowered, perhaps in the way a marathon runner might feel after running the distance, or a woman giving birth without pain killers. In other words, I attained a nice high. And then, always, began the next step to personal achievement, the act of starting anew.
My daughter Sarah tells me that when she is immersed in her poetry or song writing, it is as if time ceases to be. She, too, is lost in the moment of the creative act. Poetry might be better understood as her religion. On the ninth anniversary of my mother's sudden death, I'd like to share my daughter's recent poem, "To My Little Girl" which, I believe, encapsulates her state of becoming. One senses the self-actualizing motive throughout her work as she recognizes the transition from childhood to adulthood.
To my little girl -
I want to tell you the story of your life, how you were born
In autumn’s arms, how you softly cried, how you trusted
Your family and let them hold you, resting your entire weight
Against their moon-shaped bodies. I want to tell you how it rained,
How you were born to the sound of rain hitting rooftops
And windows, windshield wipers steadily swaying and keeping time;
Quiet rain, the kind of rain that peppers pavement with mist.
I want to tell you how you were always gentle, always taking in
The world with almond, earth-brown eyes, always noticing
The sunlight or the leaves in the wind or the scent of Comet
On doll-skin, always noticing the way silence felt in your body -
Part safety, part aching, part desire to be loud. I want to tell you
How you cared - especially about your father's feelings - how you felt
Remorse and embraced loved ones’ sadness as your own, how you
Always tried to be good; you’ve always tried to be good, to go
As lightly as air. And little one, I want to tell you about the well
Of joy that always existed beneath the surface of your skin; I want
To tell you how the wind tousled knots in your hair, how you lit the room
With soft-yellow, how you sang in rounds and rounds until you were
Dizzy with melodic-rich euphoria. I want to tell you that you have felt
Pain, and sorrow, and nostalgia, and bittersweet; I want to tell you that
You have felt happiness, and serenity, and unconditional love that is
At your core. I want to tell you that the meaning of your life is simply
To be - that you have been blessed with an ability to feel, and that this
Is your calling. I want to tell you that it is alright to soften, and to let
Your skin be bare. I want to tell you that you are made for such beauty -
For ocean, for falling snow, for hibiscus, for hummingbirds, for love,
For distant lands, for safety and trust; I want to tell you that you were made
To feel the rain, as only those who let themselves be, are able to do.
Sarah Lilian Talvi