In a previous post (How Limits & Boundaries Produce Real Creativity), we discussed how limitations and boundaries enhance creativity and genius, rather than dull them.
In fact, in yet another post, we saw the way a brilliant marketer used his unusual and complex name to his advantage, showcasing what a good marketer he really is.
Had he just decided that since he can change his name to any other name, that he should find a more conventional and pronounceable name (or just break the boundary on names and choose something simply to be different or offensive), he wouldn't have been able to come up with as nearly an effective and appealing ad.
Working within the limitation enhanced his creativity and cleverness.
The Best Art
Likewise, the best art works within structure.
Let's look at the field of writing.
Publishers of mysteries often say things like, "I would love to see a really good locked-room mystery!"
(A locked-room mystery is when a body is found in a locked room with no window and therefore, no apparent exit for the perpetrator.)
This is one of the hardest mysteries to write. Therefore, anyone who can write it well shows greater genius than one who writes a, say, a whodunit that takes place in an open park in a crime-ridden neighborhood at night.
In the field of music, the works considered genius are those of classical composers, such as Bach and Mozart, who composed their works according to certain rhythms and structures.
In the world of religious Judaism, a popular form of art includes Hebrew verses or even entire books incorporated into a painting on that theme.
Why do we admire art which incorporates verses of Psalms into a thematic painting?
Because doing so demands such skill and innovation.
The Innovative Beauty of Prohibitions
Millennia of Jewish scholarship has emphasized the importance of limitations, from limiting our speech to expressing gratitude for the limits God set on the oceans at the seashores.
Yet the idea of being limited often leaves a bad taste in the mouth of the modern millennial; limits are often seen as confining, strangling, suffocating, strait-jacketing, and so on.
Yet our Sages tell us that limiting our speech can merit us a light so great that even the greatest angels cannot perceive it. And without limits on our oceans, our world would be flooded and mostly uninhabitable.
"Restraint" seems like a quaint idea or else something necessary in only very extreme situations. Yet it is also arguably the best translation of the word gevurah, a highly prized quality in Judaism (often translated as "strength" or "might"). Gevurah is also one of the Kabbalistic Sefiras.
While some see Judaism as a list of prohibitions, many religious Jews discovered enhanced spiritual growth by asking themselves, "How can I do this within the parameters of Jewish Law?" Or, "What can I do instead?"
Finally, it's possible to expand this idea of limitations from art to expression of the human soul by examining the following idea:
Who is the greater person?
It is limitation which allow our soul's potential to truly shine.