For the palate-cleanser, or a quick gust of non-fiction to refresh my mind for the Delillo, I took down a book on creativity by the gentleman with the "oh, that guy" anonymous fame (or infamy) earned from high wire walk between the twin towers of the World Trade Centre in 1974. His feat, or as he would put it, crime, has since been documented in the movie Man On Wire and again in the feature film The Walk.
As I sought the tonic for my insomnia and avoided the Delillo, Philippe Petit's book, Creativity, The Perfect Crime, came down from the bookcase. At this point, there is the risk of slamming it with the note that it did or did not knock me out. I eased back to sleep, but it engaged me quite deeply and sleep revisited after a few notions came to mind for my to drift off to. One of the first things he mentions in the book is the contradictions that an artist or a creative person must live with or burrow into. In this case, a good book putting me into a dreamstate is the contradiction. The world, despite the arguments or conclusions many might resort to, is not as simple as that.
Petit's own comfort with the contradictions and ambiguity he delves into throughout the book is just one sign of his affinity for wabi sabi. As Petit nears the conclusion of his book, he directly acknowledges wabi sabi, telling the reader to be guided by it. Prior to that mention, the book is peppered with references. The most obvious is his comment, "I've seen Time devour Art with avidity -- and I love it!" He finds great energy in the passage of time and what it does to art and the world. Apart from that, he talks about the familiarity that he develops over time with the tools that he has used in juggling and magic. He embraces the contradictions of his art and life and strives to strike the balance between them. These elements and his clearly expressed aversion to formulas or linear thinking are just a few indicators of his affinity for wabi sabi.
Screengrab from https://www.ted.com/talks/philippe_petit_the_journey_across_the_high_wire?language=en
Petit asserts that creativity is grounded in passion, tenacity, intuition, faith, improvisation and inspiration. There are risks, rehearsals, obstacles, surprises and miracles to add to things that you (not an artist, creative person or someone with more chops than you) you wish to pursue or achieve. He adds that it is absolutely necessary for you to protect and even wall in that creative spirit or component of yourself to give it the chance and freedom to grow and go into the direction it desires to go.
In this privacy and self-protection, Petit makes the best case I have seen for wabi sabi guiding an approach to life that is original, personal and self-actualizing. (It is a far stronger case than appeared in Agneta Nyholm Winqvist's work on wabi sabi. There are too many premanufactured paths through life followed by people who have committed to an ornate combination of rationalizations and consumer choices to find the fulfillment that comes from an elegant, personal, formula-free approach to living in creating. There is no trace of "I'm doing this job I dislike 50 weeks of the year so I can go to that all-inclusive" in his ethos. There is an elegance in his work, the path he has sculpted for himself and the excess with which he has pursued his passion.
Petit is confident -- no, certain -- that "chaos always brings order." He might even argue that the apparent order of a life that complies and conforms with the rules may be an illusion of order hiding or merely postponing chaos. He says that, "if you start with the rules, your creation will be stillborn." That applies to life as much as art. Great creations and great lives absorb the curves and reversals that are encountered and integrates them into the person and their work.