Creativity and Spirituality with Joel McKerrow

Month: May, 2012

Places on Manhatten 3- The HighLine



About 30 feet off the ground running right along the side of Manhatten island between there in the 1930’s was built a railway line for transporting goods. After some time it became abandoned and was left to deteriorate and deteriorate it did. But over the years up out of the ruins of this high-line railway grew grass and plants and bushes. The council wanted to tear the whole thing down as it had become not a very safe place because of the deterioration and the activities of people that were gathering there at night.

But a group of locals saw something else in it. They set up an organisation ‘Friends of the High-line’ and appealed to the council and in the early 2000’s they were granted from the council to restore the run down railway line into a few mile long garden and walkway. So this they did. Now in 2012 you can walk along, above the streets of manhatten, through a beautiful garden and through all these different creative artworks and spaces. When Heidi and I were there, there was a free contemporary dance show on the highline that we saw. The highline is this beautiful image of when creativity is used to bring restoration, or to use a more spiritual word, redemption, to a broken, abandoned, left for dead railway.

Now what a contrast this is to Times Square (in the above blog). When you see the two places as symbols and when you place them side-by-side there is two VERY different messages that they portray. One that is solely about profiteering for big business to the masses whilst the other is all about creativity as a redemptive force, ie. taking the old and calling the new out of it. Not for profit’s sake but for beauty’s sake. Not for anything more than enriching human existence sake.

I know what sought of creativity I wish to delve into with my writing and poetry.



Places on Manhattan 2- Times Square


Two other places on Manhatten Island (aside from the above entry about Kahlil Gibran’s house) that have gripped me and stood in absolute polarity to each other have been- ‘Times Square’ and what is called ‘The High-line’.

Times Square is indeed the spectacle that it is known for. The HUGE bright lights and billboards and screens as big as buildings and a mass of energy and creativity and people. Yet for all the creativity in Times Square literally EVERY SINGLE part of it was all trying to sell me something- a product, a movie, an experience. There was one monument in the centre of it all of a ‘Father Duffy’, (a Catholic priest and army Chaplain)- which was literally the only thing that wasn’t about making money from the consumer. The monument felt like a bit of anchor for me, holding me to the real in this hyper-real square. Times Square is indeed itself a monument to Hyper-consumer culture.

What kept coming to me as I sat there pondering, was the words ‘Times Square is the whore of creativity”. The place where the amazing talents of so many music makers, movie makers, theatre makers, graphic designers, artists are all exploited for the goal of profit from the consumer masses. There was no creativity for beauty’s sake- nothing that was about taking us further into life and self. I am sure others can see it in different ways and I am sure I would see it in different ways at different times. The question kept coming to me also- ‘What if it was offered to me?’  That is, to take my creativity and have it heard/seen by the masses- would I be willing for the sake of scope of influence- to put a nike logo on it, to put the golden arches on it, to put any brand on it if it meant millions more would hear/see it. Or does the very act of doing this negate the very message that I am trying to convey in my poetry and creativity and life.

Big questions I know.

So this was Times Square- the whore of creativity.

Stay tuned for the next blog about Times Square’s counterpart- ‘The High-line’.


Places on Manhatten 1


There are a few places in Manhatten that have really stuck with me so far and all for different reasons. The first I shall put in this blog. The first was going and sitting on the street where Kahlil Gibran lived in 1923 when he wrote ‘The Prophet’. Even though the original house had been knocked down, there was still something very special about that place, about that whole street of his.  A rich sense of history and a deep resonating presence of the writer and his words that he wrote here in this place-

How shall I go in peace and without sorrow? Nay, not without a wound in the spirit shall I leave this city. Long were the days of pain I have spent within its walls, and long were the nights of aloneness; and who can depart from his pain and his aloneness without regret? Too many fragments of the spirit have I scattered in these streets, and too many are the children of my longing that walk naked among these hills, and I cannot withdraw from them without a burden and an ache. It is not a garment I cast off this day, but a skin that I tear with my own hands…For to stay, though the hours burn in the night, is to freeze and crystallize and be bound in a mould.”

It is these words and this depth of resonant presence I felt here when I took the time to stop and listen. Paulo Coehlo calls it ‘Listening to the language of the World’ and I think it is going to be a major part of my trip. That is, learning to listen to what the world is saying and to what God is saying through the world. Slowing myself down enough to come to attention. To open my eyes. To learn not through books, but through experience and place.



36 hours in Shanghai

1 maglev train at 300km/hr. (Yes it works by magnets not wheels).

20 pieces of the best fried broccoli ever.

8 of the best pumpkin cakes ever.

$2 beer.

1 walk around people’s square.

1 circus show including 8 FREAKISHLY amazing Yoho Diablo performers and 2 of the most flexibly strong people I have ever seen.

5 pages of a new fable written.

1000 people sniggering at my hair. 




Heidi and her twins in the People’s Square, Shanghai.


Heidi’s goodbye reflections


Our memories etch patterns in the space between us. Spiraling bridges over chasms between our minds.

Two nights before we left I (heidi) gathered with friends, and some strangers, within the walls of an orange studio where we chatted, danced till sufficiently sweaty, did our compulsory cool down to the exact same song that has cooled us down the past 3years, and went for drinks (yes homies, this blog is for you). I was struck by the depth of friendship that had developed through this ritual. How an experience, and the repetition of experience, gives people a common thread from which bonds and bridges are formed. I will miss this group of friends and the rituals we have developed and so I say this- 

When ever possible, make memories together. And when not together, let’s make memories anyway, bundle them up safely and unwrap them for each other that we might expand beyond ourselves. Let’s have half built bridges reaching out all around us, waiting in the middle as pleasant surprises for other half built bridges to stumble upon. They may not always line up plumb as arrows but we’ll find a away across.

Bags are packed and we head off in the morning on mission to collect memories and write home with stories. It’s easier to remember to collect memories while your away but maybe more significant are the memories you make at home with ‘your people’. 

Thanks people.