What is Creativity: Transforming Suffering into Light

You know, there are just so many untold stories in the world. So many anonymous lives, each lived by a single human being with dreams and hopes, confusion and despair. Together, all 6,980,079,851 of us (at this moment now), whether we ever touch or see or hear of each other, we weave the web of life together. As an old friend of mine in Chicago used to say, “We’re all just muddling through.”

Well, what if one of those lives – you know, the disposable ones – the poor and nameless, the faces you never have to see except by accident when changing the channel, what if one of them made it out of the abyss. What kind of story would she share? What would be the tenor of his voice?

Today, I heard that voice. I heard his story. It moved me.

By the age of 8, Emmanuel Jal was a child soldier in Southern Sudan. At five, he saw his village burned, his aunt and sisters raped and his mother killed in the war that has ripped his country apart. Unable to read and write, he was sent to ‘school’ where he was trained to fight. And he was a soldier for the next five years.

When Jal was 13, a young British aid worker named Emma McCune found him, rescued him, and gave him a second life. That’s not the happy ending we’d like for our story, however. McCune was killed soon after in a car accident, leaving Jal to find his own way on the streets of Nairobi. From there, Jal took one step after another
following the journey of his extraordinary life to become the hip-hop star he is today, described by Peter Gabriel as having “the potential of a young Bob Marley.”

Jal, now just 29, founded Gua Africa, a UK charity whose mission is is to help individuals, families and communities overcome the effects of war and poverty. He is raising money to build a school in Southern Sudan, which he calls Emma Academy.

Here is what I watched today that touched my heart, lifted me out of my obsession with my small problems, and reminded me of my place in the web. I hope it touches you too and awakens in you the creative voice you might have silenced.
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With music as his “weapon of choice,” Emmanuel Jal is doing the real work of the artist in society, transforming his suffering into light. But this work is not for the artist alone. It is for us all. For we all suffer. And the world is in need of light.

What does it mean to be creative?  What kind of person is the Wheel of Creativity for? It is for all of us.

  • The hungry young boy whose voice cannot be heard
  • The beautiful, elegant aid worker who sees his potential
  • The person in his audience who wants to be moved
  • The woman who accidentally finds his story online
  • The person who reads her simple blog and decides to get involved
What is possible in your part of the web of life when you take your place there as a creator?