Monthly Archives: December 2010

Ebb & Flow

Notes on Creativity theme of the week:
Rethinking Christmas 

 

That’s it. It’s all over now- turkey, stuffing, stockings, tinsel, Santas, sugar plums, turtle doves- done, gone, and finished. 

So now what?

Well, there’s still New Year’s Eve, that one last hurrah before the winter doldrums set in again. From the crescendo of festivities to the bareness of cold, dark days. How to reconcile these two extremes.

In truth, we need both. Neither is sustainable for long. We only have so much energy to put into grand celebrations, needing molasses-slow days to rest up. Yet, too much molasses mires us in stagnation.

Paying attention to where we are in this ebb and flow of these two modes will show us when to seek the balance of the other, and leave us fresh to follow our creative pursuits.

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Today’s 4 Minute Writer  

Heirloom

It’s past midnight. She meant to be asleep hours ago, but the rhythmic movement of yarn through her fingers held her in its spell- just one more row, then another, and another. She knows she is tired, but does not feel it. Hers is a labour of love, creating what she hopes will be a treasure passed down from generation to generation.

She wishes she still had her great-grandmother’s handiwork that had been passed down to her, but the violent movement of soldiers through her town held her past in its possession.

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(Im)Perfection

Notes on Creativity theme of the week:
Rethinking Christmas 

 

A couple of friends invited me to their kids’ Christmas concerts recently. The prospect of a night of oohing and aahing parents, grandparents and the like did not fill my heart with the glee and gladness of the season. However, in an effort to practice politeness (a challenge for me), I said yes to both offers.

The night of the first event came. I made sure to do a few breathing exercises to prepare me for having to feign smiles and give weak applause all night. Walking into the huge hall, I was surprised at how professionally decorated it was. A few hundred people, all sharply dressed, waited in great anticipation of seeing their particular Johnny perform.

The lights went down and the concert began. Child after child marched on stage, each taking their proper place, quietly awaiting their cue. And when it came, beautiful voices chimed together in epic unison. A chorus of angels. Pure perfection. And that is how the whole night went, each child doing exactly as laid out, with a sunny disposition. Children of the Stepford Wives?

When it came time for concert number two, I was even less enthused than the first time around. I contemplated bringing an iPod, a book, a hip flask. I reminded myself that I was practicing politeness, and so grudgingly went without.

This time, the venue was much smaller and there were only a few dozen folks. It was an older building without any sparkle or glitz, or even a way to dim the lights for effect.

The concert started. One of the kids held the mic, turned to his friend and asked, “Is this thing on?” The audience chuckled- oh yes, it was working just fine. I admit, even my stoic gaze lightened up.

The adult leading the show nodded and refocused the children. Within a few minutes it was apparent that she had a tremendous job on her hands- one kid constantly played with the buttons on his shirt, another wandered off the stage, while still another insisted on being in front. A couple tried to out-sing each other while another girl chewed on her hair.

That night I discovered first-hand where the internet acronym ROTFL (rolling on the floor laughing) came from. My stomach hurt from the convulsions I threw it into. I was far more entertained than I could have been at any Broadway performance.  

That night, too, I discovered that true perfection is actually imperfection.

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Today’s 4 Minute Writer  

In Control

Every muscle in her body tenses. Her shoulders crowd out her neck, torso maintains high alert. She tries to carry an air of nonchalance, moving slowly, as if to pace herself.

I want to tell her to relax, chill, loosen up, but I can’t. She has me gripped by the throat with her iron stare, words cannot escape.

This is how she needs things to be, squeezes the life out of everything so it becomes quiet, and still, and has no power to bother her.

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An Issue with Authority

Notes on Creativity theme of the week:
Making Sense 

 

Some would say I have an issue with authority. I would say it depends on how you define ‘issue’.

If you mean that I am not afraid to challenge opinions or question decisions of those deemed as experts or authority figures, then I would agree.

I recently saw my doctor who has known me for years. For some reason I had never told her that I am a vegetarian. When it came up in conversation, she immediately wrote up a requisition for blood tests and held it out to me. I looked at it, then looked at her. “No thank you,” I commented flatly.

This would shock some. “But your doctor told you to get those tests. It’s for your own good. What’s your problem?”

My philosophy is that if it ain’t broke don’t fix it. I feel fine. I don’t need tests. And besides, I hate needles. I may be wrong and it may be to my detriment, but I gave myself the privilege of choice and determined that I didn’t have to do something just because my doctor told me to. It was a suggestion, not an order.

I also no longer place public figures on a pedestal- if I ever did. Too many CNN scandals have jaded me. Nor do I trust clergy to accurately portray what a man of God should be. Only God in the flesh can do that.

The thing is, I don’t have an issue with my issue. As long as I decline advice respectfully, and express my counter-points intelligently, I am perfectly happy making up my own mind and taking on the consequences. I would rather do that than blindly follow just because ‘Simon says’.

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Today’s 4 Minute Writer  

Exclusivity

“This elegant Briga purse was handmade in Milan. Exquisite work- look at the detail. It’s simply gorgeous.”

She nods politely.

He picks up on her body language.

“We also have- over here, this way now- a one of a kind Fylon Varoon from Paris.” Feigns whisper, “Lady Ferdina gets all her exclusives made for her by Varoon.” Straightens up. “Look at the craftsmanship and stylish contours. Oh, I just love it!”

He studies her face. She doesn’t give away anything- not that she is of less than modest means, or that she is mocking him behind those stealthy eyes. He has no idea that she is undercover, making note of all that is made in China.

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The Matter of Money

Notes on Creativity theme of the week:
Making Sense 

 

A number of years ago, I spent nearly twelve months living in a Northern Brazilian town. The experience showed me how little I knew about culture, relationships, and point of view on the world.

One thing I was never able to overcome was how people there saw me as a ‘first world’ person. Just when I thought I was building relationships based on equality, my new-found friends would remind me that I was from a rich country while they were from a place they saw as far poorer and less organized. It drove me crazy, what difference should that make to our friendship?

Not too long ago, I had the opportunity to travel to Cuba, a society unlike any other. One conversation I had with a young man working in a restaurant made me stop and take notice. We talked of the high level of education Cuban citizens possess, the strong culture and human warmth of the people. And then this gentleman said to me, “None of that is of any value to me when I can’t put enough food on the table to feed my family.” He spoke of the frustration of knowing so much and working so hard, yet not having the opportunity to use his skills to build a career or make enough money to even meet his basic needs.

And now, I look around me at the affluence of our city- the neighbourhoods of McMansions, Lexuses in the driveways, motor homes in storage yards, money thrown away on fancy clothes and extravagant parties, and I simply do not understand money. How is it that those who don’t have it want it, those who have it flaunt it, and those who wish it didn’t matter can never get away from its influence?

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Today’s 4 Minute Writer  

Happiness Is…

I pick up the Hallmark card on the stand in front of me. “Happiness Is…” reads the front. I open the card. “…a puppy peeing in clover.”

Mental note- don’t look to Hallmark for life wisdom.

I carry on looking for a card for my grandparents’ sixtieth anniversary, but the phrase sticks with me, “Happiness Is…”. How would I finish that sentence?  

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Big Vs. Little

Notes on Creativity theme of the week:
Making Sense 

 

We live in a complex world with a lot going on. It takes creative thinking to be able to synthesize all that is happening around us in order to make sense of it all.

I’ve noticed a theme repeating itself in several directions I’ve turned lately. It’s the concept of Big vs. Little, David and Goliath, the structural machine vs. the individual.

It popped up in an editorial I read recently about the Wikileaks scandal. The editor remarked that the Big powers that be have been making clandestine decisions behind closed doors while maintaining a completely different public face. Wikileaks is about the Little guys taking back some power from the Big guys and making it known that Little will no longer be pushed around and is now a force to be reckoned with.

This same theme is showing itself in the competition between Apps- big companies limiting options, and the world-wide web- a truly democratic shmorgishborg where Little can participate on equal ground with Big.

It is interesting that Big vs. Little can also unfold when Little tries to act Big.  Whenever little people decide that they are bigger than the rest, they destroy any hope of true togetherness.

What is it about human nature that compels us to put ourselves above others, to grab for more power than we need? It is a futile quest we must relinquish, humbly acknowledging that we are really all only Little. And there is honor in that.   

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Today’s 4 Minute Writer  

Stealing a Moment

I’m staring out the window watching the clouds. They hang, suspended in the expanse of blue extending endlessly. The world falls silent, I float. The air is still. Time stops. 

A deep breath. 

And then, the clouds start to move and I must return to the dishes I was washing, letting the clouds pass by.     

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Observing Myself

Notes on Creativity theme of the week:
Creating Personalities

 

To finish off this week’s theme of putting on different personas, I decided to play myself today while at the same time sitting on the sidelines as observer. Granted, the observer’s perceptions were skewed by the player’s views, but all the same, I wanted to see what discoveries I would make.

As observer, I watched myself speak far too bluntly than one ought, sneak a taste of batter when no one was looking, and take much too much time fussing over words for a blog post.

As player, I felt the surge of adrenalin in an emotionally charged debate, the joy of shared laughter among friends, and the retreat into silence to collect my own thoughts.

I discovered that I liked myself better from the insider’s viewpoint than from that of observer. The observer often misunderstood my intentions and was black and white in her judgements. Not to say that the observer wasn’t correct in noticing my flaws, it’s just that she was quick to critique and slow to consider alternate interpretations.

It made me wonder if I, as observer of others, unfairly judge those I see from the outside. Perhaps taking a moment to jump into their skins will help me respond with more wisdom and fairness.

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Today’s 4 Minute Writer  

Emotions

Emotions are like women, some would say- can’t live with ’em, can’t live without ’em. Find out how to solve the problem of women and you’ll find out what to do with emotions.

You’re supposed to be smart about ’em. The EI Quotient- Emotional Intelligence. Made some author really rich, gave me a lifelong complex. Man, am I emotionally unintelligent- mostly for believing my feelings now have to have smarts to them.

In one of John Malkovich’s movies, his character played a man who impersonated the famous Director Stanley Kubrick. The impersonator went around behaving like he thought the Director acted. And people bought the act!

Maybe I should impersonate an Emotionally Intelligent person for the rest of my life and be ever calm, cool, and collected- and 100% contrived.

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I Wanna be a Rock Star

Notes on Creativity theme of the week:
Creating Personalities

 

Watch President Obama and you will see the embodiment of charisma. There is something about him that draws you in, makes you hang on every word he says.

Rock stars have it too, that very same something.

It’s hard to put a finger on what exactly it is, but whatever it is, I don’t have it. I have too many characteristics that get in the way and not enough of the magic.

Tonight, I wanted to capture charisma even for just one moment, even for just one song. That’s right, I played ‘charismatic karaoke rock star’.

The last time I did karaoke I did it as myself. This time, I did it as the original singer of the song I chose, watching him in my head as I sang, doing what he did, feeling what I imagined he felt. Mic in hand, I put on my slickest, smoothest voice, grabbed control of the stage, and invited the audience into the heart of the song.

Did I actually exude charisma? I don’t know. But I felt free, sure, strong, passionate as I imagined myself as a rock star.

It makes me wonder if charisma is something you’re born with or something you can learn. I wonder… What do you think?

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Today’s 4 Minute Writer  

The Tracks

She had been walking along the tracks for days. It was the only way she could maintain any sense of direction. She had no idea where they led, but there was nothing else to point her to any place other than here.

The noonday sun beat down. She reached into her bag and took out a shirt to shield her eyes. She could only see a few feet in front of her. Then again, there wasn’t much else to look at.

Track, track, more track. Her eyes grew heavy. Just a little farther and she would take a break.

In the midst of the brightness and her fading energy, she suddenly felt a different sensation beneath her feet. She stopped and looked down. Shoes. Sand. Tracks- no tracks, they had come to an end. She had arrived somewhere.

She looked around. Her surroundings were the same they had been the whole journey- sand, sand, more sand. One vast expanse.

Now what? No path, no tracks, no landmarks, or sign posts.

No time to waste on tears or analysis. She stepped into the vast, choosing a direction at random and carried on, one foot in front of the other.

If only she would have looked beyond the surface, she would have noticed the gilded steps within reach above, leading to life in another dimension.

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