May 28, 2023

Creative Destruction

"The urge to destroy is also a creative urge."--Mikhail Bakunin
Chris and I often talk about Soren's love of destruction, even from an early age.  When he plays, he destroys.   It's his favorite thing to do, take things apart, break them, crash them, etc.  Just yesterday, he busied himself with smashing Matchbox cars with a brick and was utterly delighted in this activity.
It's difficult for me to see the creative power in this; as an artistically-inclined person, my natural instinct is to create, as in build, make marks, produce something out of nothing.  Watching him and accepting this destructive impulse is teaching me about different ways to approach creativity.
I remember as a kid having an overwhelming urge to pull all of the flowers off of a bleeding heart bush at my grandmother's house.  Even then, I'm not sure why I did it.  There is a smattering of other memories regarding the urge to destroy, like peeling wallpaper off a wall, tearing at a hole in my clothes, etc. even if these impulses weren't  on the level of Soren's. Why did I do this?

Most likely, it was thoughtless, done out of boredom rather than curiosity.  But in many ways, destruction is a satisfying thing, like peeling bark off of a birch tree, or it can be dramatic and exciting, like watching a watermelon drop from three stories above.  For me, it's rare that the creative acts that I know, like painting or drawing have such a dramatic conclusion as a watermelon shattering to pieces.  Or a snowman, for that matter.
No sandcastle is safe either, as this one proved too irresistible for avoiding stomping on.  Thankfully, the kids who made it were long gone.
Is that what the interest is, the dramatic effect of destruction?  I'm still trying to make sense of it.

The obvious meaning behind Picasso's quote above would seem to be that destruction makes room for more creativity, however it doesn't seem to the be the case with Soren.  He's not interested in rebuilding, other than for the purposes of destroying again.  Maybe he should start dabbling in the "eraser drawing" style of Willem de Kooning.

I think Soren simply enjoys cause and effect, and having power over something physically, which might be where his love of destruction comes from.  I only hope this creative urge can be focused onto an activity or hobby.  If that were to happen, I'm sure Chris and I would be blown away by what he can achieve.


  1. It would be hard for me to see that too, I think. But I love that you are looking at it as a creative outlet for him..

    Maybe he would like smashing plates {carefully lol} and doing tile art. Or smash an old watch and use the cogs, etc to accessorize a robot. But like you said, he might just like to smash things and that's it. :)

    I can't help but chuckle at the intensity/excitement on his face in the snow picture.

  2. That is a stellar group of pictures! Jasper likes to build but he also loves to crash his creations down. It's a mystery to me, too... boys.

  3. FWIW, the quote is from the famous Russian anarchist Mikhail Bakunin. I take no comfort in knowing this. :)

    Influenced by Bakunin, Picasso said “Every act of creation is first of all an act of destruction.”

  4. Oh, Chris, my apologies. :)

    Never mind not even making a comment about our son in lieu of accuracy. (said in jest, to those who don't know us).

  5. PS, I edited the post to reflect your correction.


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