Individuals gathering in circles, fostering unity and co-creation is a powerful concept. And yet there is another paradigm for inspiration just as important -- the need for quiet introspection and time spent alone. Susan Cain wrote in The New York Times (The Rise of the New GroupThink) "people are more creative when they enjoy privacy and freedom from interruption."
This didn't come as news to me. My book, "Goddess on Earth"took over 10 years to realize. I'm pretty sure that I could not have sustained the focus needed if it's creation had been dispersed among a large group. I was blessed with enthusiastic support in circles and wrote about it in a past blog entitled Women Sustaining Each Other. Many wonderful opportunities availed themselves along the way, and these deep connections kept me going for the long haul. The other side of this coin is that a lot of time was spent working alone; editing photographic images, educating myself about sacred myths and allowing the project's creation to slowly reveal itself to me.
It makes sense on an archetypal level, too. In the Bible, Adam's first wife, Lilith, refused to be subservient to him and left Paradise and the Garden of Eden. While medieval lore pictured her as an evil temptress, more recent interpretations portray her as a fierce individualist. For many, she is revered for her courage in striking out on her own and considered "the first feminist".
I photographed Reno, the comedic monologist, embodying Lilith under the Williamburg Bridge in New York City. In her portrait, she is captured in a cascade of light, with her arms outstretched, as if in celebration--joyfully bathed in creative potential, and open to her destiny. The portrait delights in the ability go it alone.
My dear friend Maria Palmer chose to embody the three Norns from Scandinavian mythology. Much like the Greek Fates, the Norns ruled the destiny of gods and humankind. They possessed the gift of foresight, which only they could reveal. In Goddess on Earth, Maria beautifully summarizes the power of solitude and divine connection: "When I was a child and the turmoil in my family took fire, I stepped out through a portal into the woods. Magical worlds opened up... I was part of the vast universe, connected by a web that has been spun by the Norns through time and space." The portrait illustrates the power to be complete onto one self but connected to the whole.
I believe in the power of the Self to ignite a divine spark and roar into a creative fire. These powerful urges, drawn up from the subconscious and enriched by divine archetypes, breathe life into the world just as they enrich our souls. But we need group too, to support and encourage, to fortify and hold us up when the fire cools. In the end, it's a remarkable and individually determined balance; between our need for community and blessed solitude.