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← Give yourself permission to be creative

Reflecting on moments that shaped his life, actor Ethan Hawke examines how courageous expression promotes healing and connection with one another -- and invites you to discover your own unabashed creativity. "There is no path till you walk it," he says.

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Showing Revision 5 created 07/23/2020 by Erin Gregory.

  1. I was hoping today to talk
    a little bit about creativity.
  2. You know, a lot of people really struggle
  3. to give themselves
    permission to be creative.
  4. And reasonably so.
  5. I mean, we're all a little suspect
    of our own talent.
  6. And I remember a story
    I came across in my early 20s
  7. that kind of meant a lot to me.
  8. I was really into Allen Ginsberg,

  9. and I was reading his poetry,
  10. and I was reading --
    he did a lot of interviews --
  11. and one time, William F. Buckley
    had this television program
  12. called "Firing Line,"
  13. and Ginsberg went on there
    and sang a Hare Krishna song
  14. while playing the harmonium.
  15. And he got back to New York
    to all his intelligentsia friends,
  16. and they all told him,
  17. "Don't you know that everybody
    thinks you're an idiot,
  18. and the whole country's
    making fun of you?"
  19. And he said, "That's my job.
  20. I'm a poet, and I'm going
    to play the fool.
  21. Most people have to go
    to work all day long,
  22. and they come home
    and they fight with their spouse,
  23. and they eat, and they turn on
    the old boob tube,
  24. and somebody tries
    to sell them something,
  25. and I just screwed all that up.
  26. I went on and I sang about Krishna,
  27. and now they're sitting in bed
    and going, 'Who is this stupid poet?'
  28. And they can't fall asleep, right?"
  29. And that's his job as a poet.
  30. And so, I find that very liberating,

  31. because I think that most of us
    really want to offer the world
  32. something of quality,
  33. something that the world
    will consider good or important.
  34. And that's really the enemy,
  35. because it's not up to us
    whether what we do is any good,
  36. and if history has taught us anything,
  37. the world is an extremely
    unreliable critic.
  38. Right?
  39. So you have to ask yourself:

  40. Do you think human creativity matters?
  41. Well, hmm.
  42. Most people don't spend a lot of time
    thinking about poetry. Right?
  43. They have a life to live,
  44. and they're not really that concerned
    with Allen Ginsberg's poems
  45. or anybody's poems,
  46. until their father dies,
  47. they go to a funeral,
  48. you lose a child,
  49. somebody breaks your heart,
    they don't love you anymore,
  50. and all of a sudden,
  51. you're desperate for making sense
    out of this life,
  52. and, "Has anybody ever
    felt this bad before?
  53. How did they come out of this cloud?"
  54. Or the inverse -- something great.

  55. You meet somebody and your heart explodes.
  56. You love them so much,
    you can't even see straight.
  57. You know, you're dizzy.
  58. "Did anybody feel like this before?
    What is happening to me?"
  59. And that's when art's not a luxury,
    it's actually sustenance.
  60. We need it.
  61. OK. Well, what is it?

  62. Human creativity
    is nature manifest in us.
  63. We look at the, oh ...
  64. the aurora borealis. Right?
  65. I did this movie called
    "White Fang" when I was a kid,
  66. and we shot up in Alaska,
  67. and you go out at night
  68. and the sky was like rippling
    with purple and pink and white,
  69. and it's the most beautiful
    thing I ever saw.
  70. It really looked like the sky was playing.
  71. Beautiful.
  72. You go to Grand Canyon at sundown.
  73. It's beautiful.
  74. We know that's beautiful.
  75. But fall in love?
  76. Your lover's pretty beautiful.
  77. I have four kids.
  78. Watching them play?
  79. Watching them pretend to be a butterfly
  80. or run around the house
    and doing anything,
  81. it's so beautiful.
  82. And I believe that we are here
    on this star in space

  83. to try to help one another. Right?
  84. And first we have to survive,
  85. and then we have to thrive.
  86. And to thrive, to express ourselves,
  87. alright, well, here's the rub:
    we have to know ourselves.
  88. What do you love?
  89. And if you get close to what you love,
  90. who you are is revealed to you,
  91. and it expands.
  92. For me, it was really easy.

  93. I did my first professional play.
    I was 12 years old.
  94. I was in a play called "Saint Joan"
    by George Bernard Shaw
  95. at the McCarter Theatre,
  96. and -- boom! -- I was in love.
  97. My world just expanded.
  98. And that profession --
    I'm almost 50 now --
  99. that profession has never stopped
    giving back to me,
  100. and it gives back more and more,
  101. mostly, strangely,
  102. through the characters that I've played.
  103. I've played cops, I've played criminals,

  104. I've played priests, I've played sinners,
  105. and the magic of this over a lifetime,
    over 30 years of doing this,
  106. is that you start to see
    that my experiences,
  107. me, Ethan, is not nearly as unique
  108. as I thought.
  109. I have so much in common
    with all these people.
  110. And so they have something
    in common with me.
  111. You start to see
    how connected we all are.
  112. My great-grandmother,
    Della Hall Walker Green,

  113. on her deathbed,
  114. she wrote this little biography
    in the hospital,
  115. and it was only about 36 pages long,
  116. and she spent about five pages
  117. on the one time
    she did costumes for a play.
  118. Her first husband got, like, a paragraph.
  119. Cotton farming, of which
    she did for 50 years, gets a mention.
  120. Five pages on doing these costumes.
  121. And I look -- my mom gave me
    one of her quilts that she made,
  122. and you can feel it.
  123. She was expressing herself,
  124. and it has a power that's real.
  125. I remember my stepbrother and I
    went to go see "Top Gun,"

  126. whatever year that came out.
  127. And I remember we walked out of the mall,
    it was, like, blazing hot,
  128. I just looked at him,
  129. and we both felt that movie
    just like a calling from God.
  130. You know? Just ...
  131. But completely differently.
  132. Like, I wanted to be an actor.
  133. I was like, I've got to make something
    that makes people feel.
  134. I just want to be a part of that.
  135. And he wanted to be in the military.
  136. That's all we ever did
    was play FBI, play army man,
  137. play knights, you know,
    and I'd like, pose with my sword,
  138. and he would build a working crossbow
  139. that you could shoot an arrow into a tree.
  140. So he joins the army.
  141. Well, he just retired
    a colonel in the Green Berets.
  142. He's a multidecorated combat veteran
    of Afghanistan and Iraq.
  143. He now teaches a sail camp
    for children of fallen soldiers.
  144. He gave his life to his passion.
  145. His creativity was leadership,
  146. leading others,
  147. his bravery, to help others.
  148. That was something he felt called to do,
  149. and it gave back to him.
  150. We know this -- the time
    of our life is so short,

  151. and how we spend it --
  152. are we spending it
    doing what's important to us?
  153. Most of us not.
  154. I mean, it's hard.
  155. The pull of habit is so huge,
  156. and that's what makes kids
    so beautifully creative,
  157. is that they don't have any habits,
  158. and they don't care
    if they're any good or not, right?
  159. They're not building a sandcastle going,
  160. "I think I'm going to be
    a really good sandcastle builder."
  161. They just throw themselves at whatever
    project you put in front of them --
  162. dancing, doing a painting,
  163. building something:
  164. any opportunity they have,
  165. they try to use it to impress upon you
    their individuality.
  166. It's so beautiful.
  167. It's a thing that worries me sometimes
    whenever you talk about creativity,

  168. because it can have this kind of feel
    that it's just nice,
  169. you know, or it's warm
    or it's something pleasant.
  170. It's not.
  171. It's vital.
  172. It's the way we heal each other.
  173. In singing our song,
  174. in telling our story,
  175. in inviting you to say,
  176. "Hey, listen to me,
    and I'll listen to you,"
  177. we're starting a dialogue.
  178. And when you do that,
    this healing happens,
  179. and we come out of our corners,
  180. and we start to witness
    each other's common humanity.
  181. We start to assert it.
  182. And when we do that,
    really good things happen.
  183. So, if you want to help your community,
    if you want to help your family,

  184. if you want to help your friends,
  185. you have to express yourself.
  186. And to express yourself,
    you have to know yourself.
  187. It's actually super easy.
  188. You just have to follow your love.
  189. There is no path.
  190. There's no path till you walk it,
  191. and you have to be willing
    to play the fool.
  192. So don't read the book
    that you should read,
  193. read the book you want to read.
  194. Don't listen to the music
    that you used to like.
  195. Take some time to listen
    to some new music.
  196. Take some time to talk to somebody
    that you don't normally talk to.
  197. I guarantee, if you do that,
  198. you will feel foolish.
  199. That's the point.
  200. Play the fool.
  201. (Plays guitar)

  202. (Sings) Well, I want to go Austin,
    and I wanna stay home.

  203. Invite our friends over
    but still be alone.
  204. Live for danger.
  205. Play it cool.
  206. Have everyone respect me
    for being a fool.