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Creative Courage by Welby Altidor

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CHAPTER

1

The Central Problem Affecting Work

The War on Imagination, and How I Lost My Creative Courage

Have cake and tea with your demons. When we shun our own darkness (our weaknesses, our anger, our sadness, our shame, our pain), we are disconnecting ourselves from the full spectrum of elements that exists within ourselves and the rest of the universe.

Yumi Sakugawa1

I. Raising the Curtain

Finding in North Korea the Words for an Old Problem

I was on my way to lunch in Pyongyang, the capital of North Korea, officially the Democratic Republic of Korea (DPRK), on my third day there. Every day at the Koryo Hotel, one of the only lodging options in the city for foreigners, I was greeted by an ageless man as the elevator’s doors opened. His responsibilities seem to be to discreetly smile when someone entered the elevator and press the buttons leading to the appropriate floors. From my limited point of view, his third task seemed the most consequential. It was to arrange, impeccably, a doormat-size carpet on the elevator’s floor indicating, in English, the day of the week. The daily ritual of leaving my room and walking through an absurdly dimly lit corridor on one of the highest floors of the hotel was systematically accompanied by this visual reference to the current day of the week. Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday . . . And it was on that Wednesday that I was about to feel a visceral and sudden unease and fear when I discovered a four-headed monster that was hiding in plain sight.

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