Keep going if you know the words. Meanwhile, I’ll just bob my head and smile. It has been a while. And since I’ve last appeared in this space, I’ve been out and about in the world collecting experiences. My most recent one was a glorious trip to Sesimbra, Portugal with my cousins. I may write more about that later.
Today I’m dusting off the blog to say hello. It’s fall in the western hemisphere and it’s a new moon. And y’all know I love a good reasonany reason for a fresh start. After this hiatus, I’ve got a lot on my mind. Some of it I’ll share here, but other things I may share in two new spaces currently under development. Every few years I reimagine my online identities and now feels like a good time to allow some things to stand on their own.
In the short term, I just wanted to tap the mic, say hello, and welcome you back to the studio. coco’s brewing…
I often advocate for reflection. Turn off the 24-hour news cycle, read a book, journal, pray. Eliminate incessant noise so you can hear your own thoughts.
Reflection helps you make sense of that which has already transpired, and imagine and prepare for what is yet to come. It’s not time consuming to reflect, but it does require deliberate acts.
Research suggests that our brains need downtime and that people have some of their most creative ideas when they’re bored. ~Sherri Graslie for All Things Considered.
I’m not sure it’s always boredom, as many creatives report having great ideas when they are engaged in rote activities. The key, ultimately, is having the mental space available for something else.
Sherri Graslie reports one way to clear the mental clutter is by putting down your smartphone. But what happens when the smartphone is out of your hands? That’s when the deliberateness I mentioned above comes into play. Will you spend the time on another device, or will you engage with the world differently?
So we puzzle. The kids are gifted puzzles for birthdays and what have you, and the four of us sit around at various intervals and piece them together.
Our latest enterprise? Tour de la Tour, a 1000-piece Crowd Pleasers that features countless bikers who are dressed alike and are engaged in sometimes similar, oftentimes strange activities. This puzzle is sort of challenging, yet also sort of easy because many of the pieces have tell-tale images:
A small red bell on a bike that’s otherwise the same as all the other bikes.
A black shark fin in a stretch of sandy pathways.
A dark sheep in the middle of all the ivory ones, and so on.
I’ll have to admit, this puzzle has drawn me in more than the others we’ve done so far. Perhaps more than the others, all at once, the eyes no longer cooperate. Suddenly you simply can’t find the edge of that yellow brim on that rounded edge even though you’re sure it’s somewhere “over there.”
The smart ones walk away, and do something else for a while. Perhaps housework or homework or work work. And as you return to consider the puzzle once again, the edge of the yellow brim practically leaps into your hand, as do those other three pieces you saw but didn’t recognize during your last round at the table.
Creation is like that. Or doing anything that requires serious engagement. Sustained focus is helpful and even necessary for some projects or tasks (or conversations), but there comes a time when too long on task leads to diminishing returns. It’s helpful to take a break in the action, put some distance between you and the activity and returned refreshed, ready for a new perspective. And in fact, when I’m working, I’ll often turn to puzzles to clear my head, shift my thinking, or change my energy levels.
What about you? Do you enjoy puzzling? Are there any strategies you use with puzzles that you apply to daily life?
Although I haven’t seen it in over two years, this TED Talk has been on my mind the past few days. That means it’s time to take another look.
Elizabeth Gilbert is a writer, most famously known for Eat, Pray, Love. She quips early in the talk that it’s quite possible her greatest success is behind her. Even so, she was born to write, and she wants to keep writing.
Creative minds beset with the pressure to create and achieve outward measures of success are at times overwhelmed or downright tortured. Sometimes to the point of being unable to continue with their work. In the darkest cases, they are unable to continue living at all.
Said Elizabeth, “I would prefer to keep doing this work that I love. And so, the question becomes, how?”
In completely different, yet parallel ways, they are radical performances. They are unapologetic. They are in your face. They demand you pay attention.
Whether you agree or disagree with Dr. Woodson’s stance or Ms. Hall’s choreography, you can’t help but notice. They are energized and focused on conveying a message. That freedom, across time and space, inspires me today.
I’ve come across a lot of things worth sharing as of late. Long ago I used this space, not only for musing, but also for sharing news articles or other things of interest. Sometimes a video catches my eye. Other times, it could be a picture. Today, it’s a word. Something to ponder:
There is no one lonelier or more unhappy than a person who does not know the pure joy of creating a life for himself or herself. To be human is not merely to stand erect and manifest intelligence or knowledge. To be human in the full sense of the word is to lead a creative life. ~Daisaku Ikeda
If you enjoyed, Sir Ken Robinson’s epic 2006 TED talk on creativity, you’ll find this one equally satisfying. For those who require an introduction, a brief excerpt as Sir Robinson discusses the alleged ADHD epidemic facing American school children:
If you sit kids down, hour after hour, doing low-grade clerical work, don’t be surprised if they start to fidget, you know? Children are not, for the most part, suffering from a psychological condition. They’re suffering from childhood. And I know this because I spent my early life as a child. I went through the whole thing.
Kids prosper best with a broad curriculum that celebrates their various talents, not just a small range of them. And by the way, the arts aren’t just important because they improve math scores. They’re important because they speak to parts of children’s being which are otherwise untouched.
So says Sir Ken Robinson, creativity expert. In this 2006 TED Talk, featured below, he challenges us to reconsider the status and positioning of creativity. He says schooling tends to be about educating students from the neck up and “off to one side.” Of course he means we value and teach to the left hemisphere as though traditional forms of intelligence are the only or best kinds. I agree with him.
Schools and society miss the mark by overemphasizing the brain to the detriment of the rest. We think if we have the “best and brightest” we can compete in the global job market. (Or even in the local ones). I believe education should not be about jobs, but contribution. How can you be fully human and contribute to the world (and your own authentic happiness) in meaningful ways? An education that ignores the body, the heart, and the myriad forms of expression, is a half education at best, and a mis-education at worst.
Of course all of this assumes a dichotomy of teaching the brain and teaching for creativity, when I believe both can and should be done in concert. Schools today often reify the one right answer, usually from a choice of other answers. That’s not even educating the brain. That’s teaching how to eliminate bad answers. Can we teach our students to be thoughtful and creative? To think and be with both sides of our brain? Ken argues that creativity and literacy should be given equal status. I think he’s on to something.
An ideal education to me is one which considers the whole person, and challenges that person to think creatively and flexibly and be fully present in the world for the betterment of society. Idealistic, yes. Impossible, no. Watch: