Being the Lighthouse

Be the Lighthouse by Jeff Barnum. Acrylic and oil on burlap, glued to panel. 48 x 96 in.


Most people talk about creativity in business is about innovation for financial gain or marketshare. I want to talk about becoming a creative person in service to others.

Using our creative gifts primarily to grow rich is a sin against some sort of cosmic law; I am sure. They have another purpose, another destination.

As an artist and an entrepreneur, I have learned the same lesson in two different fields. When I am self-serving, whether in thought, word, or deed, the quality of my art (in one field) and the value of my services (in the other) declines. Precipitously.

Art and business are mirrors: they challenge us to rise to the challenge of making something of value. True, you can cheat — if you don’t mind living a lie. But if you do, they are perfect mirrors.

One way I think about creativity is as follows.

If you think about the tremendous creative power that went into the building of our universe, with all of its complexity and wonder, and then transferred that creative power into a single point for the purpose of creating future worlds — that’s the human being.


Creativity Collector Array

Of course, if all that creative power were to simply course through our tiny frames, we’d burn up. You have to be a star, literally. At the moment, we are corporeal.

The painting above is called “Creativity Collector Array.” The subject is: the long years of inner work needed to become creative.

Some thoughts about becoming creative — not for ourselves, but in service. This flips the script entirely, but it’s so important, I believe, that it’s worth spelling out a few things.

First: to be creative in this broader sense, one must first be able to dwell in silence.

In silence is the richness of a not-yet-expressed intuition, an inner activity without content. Empty (but structured) attentiveness.


d, we practice enriching that emptiness. Fill it with riches — through experience — and then empty it out again. Go to silence. Do this regularly, and you will grow quite good at it.

Third, if we learn to do these two things, we then learn to live and express that richness wherever we want — in all manner of ways. We become creative beings.

That’s way bigger than being “artists.”

I call this “being the lighthouse.”

Lighthouse Key #4. Wood and paint.

So, postscript. Where to start?

As an individual, inner development.

As a society, education.

This is why, to cut to the chase, art should be in EVERY school — instead of and before academics until a certain point, and always alongside academics throughout all education, even as adults.

Why? Here’s why:

  1. Art is the training of our imagination, our creativity, our ability to navigate uncertainty, and our trust in process and discovery. It builds an inner foundation for life.
  2. Art teaches us the ability to find balance & harmony through chaos (what else is “aesthetics?”).
  3. Making art teaches us to integrate, to make wholes. There is no way to make a convincing work of art without being able to make a whole.
  4. Making art enables us to dwell in the wordless space of pre-language and not-yet-expressed intention, and to discover ourselves there. We then carry that wholeness into the world through a “creative medium.” This is nothing less than practicing healing and restoring the world. Creating new reality.

We can’t create healthy organizations, healthy people, OR healthy societies without the core capabilities that art — and only art — can teach.

So put away the popsicle sticks and cheap paints. Put aside the spreadsheets and metrics — just for now.

Let’s get real with doing the work.


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