Creation and Destruction

Dear Friends & Colleagues:

Any month that begins with a few words of wisdom from our Dean, the inimitable Eugene Burger, is, in my estimation, a month that is full of promise.


Eugene Burger

Eugene Burger Faverty

My living room window faces the Three Arts Club of Chicago. Designed in 1912 by John Holabird, of the Holabird and Roche architecture firm, it is an imposing building in the Byzantine style which surrounds a lovely outdoor courtyard. The original mission of the Three Arts Club was to provide support and residence for young women coming to the city to study the three arts: music, painting and drama. The last resident left in 2003 and the building has been empty since then.

Various proposals of what to do with this structure have come and gone over the years. Of the proposals, my favorite was turning the building into a columbarium to hold the urns containing the ashes of the dead. Not surprisingly, I was very positive about this idea and felt real disappointment when it fell by the wayside.

The building is now under a major multi-million dollar renovation with the expectation that it will be finished by the Summer of 2015.

Last week, a huge banner, dozens of yards long and about eight or nine feet high, was put up on the side of the building. The side that faces my apartment. On the banner, in letters that are at least two feet high, there is a quote attributed to Pablo Picasso:

“Every act of creation is first of all an act of destruction.” 

Below that, in slightly smaller letters is the invitation:

“See what destruction hath wrought Summer 2015” 

I expect that these signs will be facing my apartment until the project is completed this coming Summer. Happily, I will be traveling and out of the city for almost all of this time. Traveling does have its benefits.

Picasso Quote

For the past week, viewing this sign each morning, I began to wonder: Is every act of creation “first of all an act of destruction”? It’s a fascinating question, don’t you think?

In the stories of India (which, by the way, have literally taken me around the world), Brahma is the Creator, Vishnu the Preserver, and Shiva the Destroyer who destroys so Brahma might create again.

I don’t know about “every” act of creation but, certainly, many acts of creation involve acts of destruction. Imagine, for example, that I do want to create something, create something of value  — perhaps create the presentation for a magic trick. Imagine that I have a piece of magic that has been ready to perform for some time except that I really don’t have any sort of presentation for it that pleases me. In short, I am stuck.

What do I need to “destroy” if I want to succeed in my creation of this magic presentation? What am I willing to sacrifice?

The answer might be any number of things. It all depends upon me.

I may need to destroy the amount of time I spend on the Internet.

I may need to destroy the amount of time I spend watching television.

I may need to destroy the amount of time I spend reading.

And, perhaps most painful for many of us, I may need to destroy the amount of time I spend with friends.

There are many, many things I may need to “destroy” if I am to reach my goal.

And this brings us to what I have always thought was a deep paradox of human existence:

I want change but I don’t want to do anything differently!

Or, to put it the another way: I want things to be different but I don’t want to change anything major in my life.

And the truth seems to be that none of us can have it both ways. If I truly want to create something of value with my magic, if I want change, then I must be willing to begin doing some things in my life differently! Perhaps I need to look with new eyes at how I “spend” my time.

Perhaps it really is that simple.

So tomorrow morning when I wake up and look out my window and see that large sign with Pablo Picasso’s message, perhaps I won’t be so negative about it. Perhaps I will realize that the message is there not only for those who pass down the street but also, and perhaps especially, just for me!

Comments are closed.