Question. Is Destruction a creative process? Let’s sidestep the nuances of the question (inherently creative, specifically creative, occasionally creative) for now.

Answer. No, destruction is never a creative process.

Definitionally, destruction is the opposite of creation. It is a process of undoing, of taking away what was there, breaking down something into nothing. It is the logical negation of the creative process, which places something where there is nothing.  You build the sand castle. I knock the sand castle down. I did not “create” a sandy pile from a castle; rather I took your effort and negated it.

We see destruction in daily life among many disciplines. We are numb to it, because it is often an “exercise” that we have to go through. For example, the recent layoffs across the US economy, particularly in the financial and housing sectors. We are offered platitudes, and other trite commentary often taken for wisdom. How helpful is “what does not kill you makes you stronger” or the concept of “creative destruction”? Mostly, not very helpful. We try to ascribe to destruction positive aspects so that we can cope with it. The metaphor of the immune system comes up often. Dealing with an immediate challenge today and the destruction of some aspect we like will in the long run be meaningful, and will also put us in a superior position relative to that of today.

Look, the immune system is a concrete real thing. It is not an overarching karmic balancer that turns a destructive vector into creative one. While we may choose to respond in a way that strengthens, the receipt of a destructive action is a negative event. It undoes some part of you. Why celebrate it? Why is death necessary for rebirth? A sober re-imagining will do.

In the visual arts and other creative disciplines, destruction is often isolated and appreciated on its own merits. For example, a performance artist may build a structure and then painstakingly annihilate it. She will destroy the object, and the traces of that object’s creation, making a statement about the creative process. Or perhaps a statement about time, and impermanence. Does this mean that destruction is creative? Again, not at all. At most, such a gesture is crude. It mocks others who take joy in creating, and in their commitment to building. Surely one can show what it means to be good by an example of evil. Darkness implies light. But that does not mean that there is light in darkness. Similarly, destruction on its own is devoid of the possibility of creation. The fact that it touches on something aesthetic by mere logic does not grant it intrinsic value.

Nonetheless, destruction is a tool, just as creation is a tool. Either can be used to affect things in a desirable way. For example, through exercise we destroy fat on our bodies to create a healthier lifestyle. Thus the action of exercise yield a process of destroying something negative and creating something positive. One can imagine destroying something positive and creating something negative, or any combination of the two. Therefore destruction is not inherently good nor bad. Rather, it is simply never creative.

1 Comment on Destruction.

  1. Urban Aesthete | Your Daily Dose of the Arts » Blog Archive » Healing. says:

    […] is a follow up on the Destruction post, although it takes a nearly opposing point of […]

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