I’m looking forward to the residential retreat starting this weekend in Gindou, France! It’s called “Awakening Genius: An Exploration of Desire and the Creative Life,” and we have a great group coming from around the United States and Europe. We’ll be working at Le Perchoir des Paons, a renovated stone farmhouse in the heart of the Dordogne region. Classes and writing time will be in the mornings, and we’ll explore the sites in the afternoon, including the nearby prehistoric cave paintings at Lascaux. Since our subject is genius – by way of desire – there couldn’t be a more historically apt marker of inherent human creativity.
Each of us is born with a unique gift. Within every person exists an original spark of creativity waiting to be ignited. This creative power is our genius, a source of inherent brilliance whose dynamic potential can transform our lives once we know how to find it. In my experience, insight is the key to this power – desire is its fuel. Artists, seekers, lovers, entrepreneurs – all innovators, in fact – recognize that desire is the indispensable fuel for creative endeavor. It is desire that opens new doors, buoys us with passion, expands our horizons and deepens our minds, hearts, and spirit. Desire prompts us to transcend our limits, reinvent ourselves, and harness latent creative intelligence stifled by a “shrink to fit” society. Until we learn to accept our desires the genius within is beyond our grasp, as is our creative potential.
We will be working with a number of core questions meant to prompt deep inquiry and insight. What desires in ourselves do we overlook? What is our natural proclivity? Where does this proclivity overlap with actual talent (our gift)? How does fear interfere with the natural flow of talent in our lives? How do we learn to embrace our desires, change directions, take risks, and meet our lives with beginner’s mind? I believe in the power of the imagination to “regreen” our lives and renew our passions. This is what we’ll be doing together in Dindou: how to awaken our inherent genius by penetrating our deepest desires. On his eightieth birthday, the late poet Stanley Kunitz –a paragon of creative self-reinvention — concluded a poem to his wife with these lines: “What makes the engine go? Desire, desire, desire.” Having met Stanley when he was 100, I know that this philosophy never failed him. He was brilliantly alive till the end. Stanley is a role model for me and the inspiration for “Awakening Genius.” He would have enjoyed the gardens at Le Pechoir des Paons.