Today is Tuesday. As I write, I am reflective, angry and sad. I had planned to write a triumphant blog, having successfully completed a self-imposed 30-day challenge to put on an art event ‘with heart, humour and humanity’, as I proclaimed on my poster. But events have taken my blog on a different course—one that I hope inspires some deeper reflection on creativity and how to apply it in business and daily life.
The idea of my art event was to show how powerful creativity can be in our lives and how, by embracing and developing it, we can enrich our left-brain-dominated world and find more rewarding success in business. We can go from ‘reasonable’ to ‘remarkable’. We can all lead extraordinary lives, rather than distorting ourselves or compromising in order to fit in and survive.
In doing so, we can pass on these qualities to the next generation, as we shape and protect them in their early years.
Art30: Inspired by Creativity was also a fundraiser for the Institute of Families for Child and Youth Mental Health in Canada. Their mission is to promote policy change within systems such as social, educational and healthcare in order to build bridges between families and these systems, which are meant to support families dealing with mental health issues, but often fail dismally to do so.
By all accounts, Art30 was a success. We raised some money and we raised some awareness about mental health issues and how they can affect anyone.
That was last Thursday. By the following Monday, little Adriana was dead.
Her mother, Tonia, had given a remarkably dignified and impassioned speech at Art30. She had described how her 14-year-old daughter—the oldest of four in a happy family—had one day in 2012 been raped by three men on White Rock beach. She went on to describe the horrors she experienced when she sought help as her family was falling apart. Those ostensibly there to assist folded their arms and said: “I’m sorry; we can’t help. Try this number.” Over and over again. She described how her daughter, barely a teenager, left home and descended into alcohol, drugs and prostitution. And then the police dropped the rape charges, claiming that the child’s lifestyle (as it had become after the rape) was “a contributing factor”. Never mind that she was a minor, abused and traumatized by three men.
How does creativity figure, in the midst of this tragedy? I have to dig deeper, and I invite you to do the same.
Imagination: the first building block of life
Our progress through life is a chain that starts with imagination. Einstein once said: “Imagination is everything. It is the preview of life’s coming attractions.” Sir Ken Robinson describes imagination as a uniquely human quality that allows us to visit the past and the future, giving us the power to empathize and to bring to mind things that don’t yet exist. He describes creativity as applied imagination and innovation completes the chain by putting creativity into practice.
Imagine, then, how little Adriana’s preview of life’s coming attractions was shattered on White Rock beach, by those three men. Then think about your own life and how, perhaps in much less dramatic and tragic circumstances, some event, message or image in your childhood changed you. Think about how it changed your belief system or shaped the course of your life. Feeding the imagination, particularly that of children, is not just about commercial seduction.
The headlong rush to instant gratification
I have been in the creative business all my life, and most of what I see in business touches me less and less. As companies and organizations try harder and harder to manipulate attention, I find myself growing numb to their efforts. In the frenzied rush to create content, build relationships, strategize, monitor and evaluate, improve the bottom line etc, there is an inherent emptiness. We are capable of so much more, and anything less than creative self-mastery is beneath us.
Ironically, as we increasingly rely on convenient electronic devices to communicate, we are less and less connected in meaningful ways. Sound bites and video mini-clips—the frenetic and the instant—are replacing contemplation and the search for understanding. We don’t want to work at it. We prefer it gift-wrapped and served up continuously and endlessly. Yet, in doing so, we jeopardize our very humanity.
Our creative potential
We may try to do our best, but we can be so much more conscious, aware and careful about what we put out. As creative individuals, we are feeding imaginations and influencing lives. But do we know to what effect? And are we mindful of our intentions?
This is a plea to all creative individuals to operate with true authenticity, from a foundation of heart, humour and humanity. If you’re not operating with heart, what are you operating with? And if your business is not founded on an inherent respect for humanity, what is it founded on? If we operate without integrity, what we do quickly becomes who we are, and if we’re more interested in the outcome than the journey, we’re likely to inflict damage along the way. When a tragedy happens as a result of our collective lifestyles and values, do we look the other way or do we take the opportunity to humanize our modus operandi? Do we distract ourselves with the next e-mail/text/Tweet, or do we tap into our creativity to develop something better? Our creativity is there to enable us to find solutions and to move forward to better innovations. It’s a natural part of us and we can choose to use it to elevate those whom it touches. Not using it in this way is not just a crying shame; at best it’s a waste of human potential and at worst it’s a crime.
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