A buffer

A Reading Note

Apropos of the noise:

We live in a world that has become mechanized to an amazingly high degree. Irrational unconscious phenomena are always a threat to this mechanization. Poets may be delightful creatures in the meadow or the garret, but they are menaces on the assembly line. Mechanization requires uniformity, predictability, and orderliness; and the very fact that unconscious phenomena are original and irrational is already an inevitable threat to bourgeois order and uniformity.

May, The Courage to Create, page 68


What people do out of fear of irrational elements in themselves as well as in other people is to put tools and mechanics between themselves and the unconscious world. This protects them from being grasped by the frightening and threatening aspects of irrational experience. I am saying nothing whatever, I am sure it will be understood, against technology or techniques or mechanics in themselves. What I am saying is that the danger always exists that our technology will serve as a buffer between us and nature, a block between us and the deeper dimensions of our own experience. Tools and techniques ought to be an extension of consciousness, but they can just as easily be a protection from consciousness. Then tools become defense mechanisms—specifically against the wider and more complex dimensions of consciousness that we call the unconscious. Our mechanisms and technology then make us “uncertain in the impulses of the spirit,” as the physicist Heisenberg puts it.

May, The Courage to Create, page 68

I like that phrase: “uncertain in the impulses of the spirit.” An “impulse” can be defined as a desire to act, or a force that causes a change in momentum. Rote mechanization pushes against that force and keeps you on the same path, when perhaps you should have veered off.

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May sees creativity as the ultimate goal of all people (not merely those traditionally deemed “creative”) and links creativity to well-being and a desire to make the world a better place.