This idea is not mine. In fact, I have no idea where I heard this. If anyone knows who it was that came up with this, please let me know, they deserve the credit. I have used this imagery for years, and will use it for many more.
Imagine for a moment that you have two twin girls. Who doesn’t want their children to be creative? Not you, that’s for sure, so being the taskmaster that you are, you make them both play piano for an hour a day, every day. Let’s be honest, they probably don’t want to be told what to do, but dangit, you are the parent, so they are just going to have to buck up and play. Pouty faces notwithstanding.
Here’s the deal though. To one, you give the ability to be completely creative. She doesn’t really need lessons, she can figure out what to do with her imagination. In the beginning, she gets mighty frustrated and just bangs on the keys, but at some point, out of boredom, she starts to make up a few little ditties. She experiments and generally resigns herself to sitting at the piano fooling around for an hour a day.
To the other, you give her a teacher. the teacher comes in, and it’s rule city. She hates rules, but you don’t care, she’s gonna learn the dang piano. There are rules about practicing scales, and chord progressions. There are rules about theory, and how long she has to spend each day studying. There so many rules, that in the beginning, it seems that all she is allowed to work on. Not only that, but she has to play the same dang song, over and over again until she gets it just right. It’s a real pain in the – you know where.
Fast forward 15 years. What do you think you will see?
You already know the answer of course. The child given complete freedom will most definitely have some interesting music, but maybe she figured out rhythm, maybe she didn’t. Maybe she didn’t like the black keys, so never bothered trying to use them. Creative? Maybe, but hardly accomplished.
In the meantime, lessons have blossomed into Beethoven. She can play Jazz, honky-tonk, country, and happy birthday when the need arises. Maybe she has even stretched out on her own, and is writing her own music. She has built on the mistakes and successes of her predecessors.
The point is simple. It is rules and structure that really allows us to be creative, not the opposite. Yes, at some point you have to be able to look beyond the rules, but not until you know why they are there on a gut level. Until the rules have true value and meaning, you haven’t really learned them. If you want to splash paint on a canvas, it may be art, but it’s not good art, and you know it. If you have studied art to mastery, splashing paint means something different entirely.
This holds true to all your life, be it work, play, or your personal relationships. It is the structure these lie within, and dealing with these structures that truly give you the ability to be creative. It is the structure, the rules, that really allow you to live your life in an open, vibrant way. To do otherwise is anarchy, and you have madness take over that would rival the worst apocalyptic film.
So the Church has rules. You bet it does. There is a structure that we have to work within to truly live our lives to the fullest. These rules and moral codes are not there to pin us down, but to lift us up. They are the very thing that allows us to reach towards our highest selves, until we no longer need the rules at all, because like the saints, we understand the meaning behind them.
Until then, think of the rules as a stake planted next to a vine. The vine might not always need the stake, but without it, the vine will lay on the ground to be trampled. That is not creative, and it does not help the vine reach towards the Son at all.