You know what the fellow said – in Italy, for thirty years under the Borgias, they had warfare, terror, murder and bloodshed, but they produced Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci and the Renaissance. In Switzerland, they had brotherly love, they had five hundred years of democracy and peace – and what did that produce? The cuckoo clock.
– Orson Welles, The Third Man.
It sounds terrible ,but it is true. All creation stems from destruction, all birth from death, all renewal from degradation.
You don’t have to be a rocket scientist to figure this out, but it helps.
Nature knows no extinction. Nature knows only transformation.
– Werner von Braun
So in a sense there is no death. Energy cannot be destroyed. It can only be transformed into some new form of energy. Hence, the energy structures of live things decay, break down and disintegrate, but they do not disappear. Instead they are simply transformed or recreated, Phoenix-like, into rebirthed forms of new living energy. Old forms create new forms and vice versa.
It sounds cruel, but all of the best theories of creation show that it stems from destruction. The neocons even subscribed to the theory of creative destruction albeit in a a cynical cover for their reactionary Zionism, imperialism and drive for US world hegemony.
After all, how can we create something new? First we must get rid of something old. We swap out the old, retire it, round file it, resign it to the trash heap, or at best consign it to the footnotes and the archives of history. In its place rises creation from the wreckage of the old forms.
We destroy to create. We create to destroy.
I have long felt that the Jews did better in the Diaspora, though conditions were not always optimal. The glorious creativity and genius that sprung from the Jews was incubated, I always felt, in the hothouse of Diasporan strife.
Strife creates energy and action, restless action. Creativity is restless action, a stir-crazy mind with cabin fever working in frenzy to escape from or change some shut-in unpleasantness.
Creativity is nervous energy.
In one of my graduate classes, we discussed anxiety a bit. I suggested to the professor that a bit of anxiety was a good thing. He thought a bit and concurred. A bit of anxiety stirs us to change an unpleasantness or discomfort that we experience. If we are always stoned-happy with everything, we will never change a thing in our lives. Positive change occurs in our lives due to dissatisfaction with something in our present condition.
The always-satisfied are fat and lazy. Stasis sets in, and soon we are glued to our couch, bong in hand. In culture, economics and many other things, this correlates with stagnation. If you’re not busy growing, you’re busy dying.
Why does anything new get created at all? Dissatisfaction, restless anxiety, a feeling that the present is not ok and needs to be bettered. Why do political movements get formed? Restless action. What is the impetus behind nearly all art of all types? Restless action, the notion that things need to be stirred up a bit. Even capitalist economics is grounded in restless action and of course creative destruction.
In strife we grow. Hardship builds character. Human growth occurs as we learn to tolerate and overcome new problems and anxieties that life throws at us a mile a minute. We bear with the new pains and even terrors and horrors, after a bit extinction occurs, and the things that once upset us and drove us crazy no longer bother us. This process is called adaptation, and in its method, it is downright Darwinian. Think about it. Yes, life is an IQ test, but Life is also a Darwinian fitness test. How can it not be?
Through the forge of strife arises bright and shining change, hardened by flames, tempered by heat, ready to weather the storms of a new day.