I’ve been prepping for a lecture I’ll be giving shortly at a university… yet strangely, the place where my mind keeps going has little to do with the speech I’m supposed to give. To indulge in a bit of profound understatement, this is something of a problem.
What I’m supposed to give is an hour and a half gloss-over for a life of sculpting that’s spanned 45+ years. And, just to muddy the water, I’m also supposed to dovetail-in a parallel but utterly different life…that of writing novels. That’s what they called me up for.
And yet, that little voice in the back of my mind keeps interrupting, making suggestions to questions I haven’t asked. It keeps telling me to address…that little kid that’s still inside you, sometimes locked in a tiny prison cell where it can almost never get out. For me, that little kid is the engine and the sole source of the creativity. Today, however, I want to talk about YOUR little kid. He or she…is critical. Do you know if he’s still alive?
If you Google: TED, then type in: Ken Robinson, you’ll discover three lectures where Sir Ken is fighting identical monsters, monsters in our school system whose goal is to systematically stamp out that little kid in all of us. You are supposed to act like an adult! There is no place for day dreaming. There is no place for having fun. Fun is recreation and that’s something you can do later.
Creativity, music, dancing, art, creative writing and inventing silly things have no real place in the grown-up world. Really? Do you really believe that? Think of every single genius, scientist, performer or entrepreneur and you will see…an individual who didn’t lock away that little kid. He listened instead. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iG9CE55wbtY
Pablo Picasso said, “The Chief Enemy of Creativity….is Good Sense.” That’s a bit extreme but who are we to argue with Picasso? Well…being an artist allows one to be extreme.
I would audaciously change and sharpen the quote thusly: CURIOSITY + PASSION = CREATIVITY. If you think about it…it works. (btw, Pamela and I took an entire hour fiddling with the fonts and colors of those few words, trying to make them the best we could. It felt like three minutes.)
As children, we are born with great heaping gobs of curiosity…and passion! Our parents and our school systems, in their attempt to mold us into creatures who can integrate with society, constantly attempt to attenuate that passion….stamp out the curiosity, the silliness, the daydreaming. Curiosity is the 427 hemi-head turbocharged racing engine that powers inventors, artists and world-changers.
Edison had a thought, “What happens if I run electricity through a filament?” He failed 437 times before he got it straight. Henry Ford, Tesla, the Wright Brothers, Da Vinci, Benjamin Franklin, Galileo, Bell, Hedy Lamarr…Sandy Calder, Branson, Moore, Dali, Rembrandt, Beethoven, Mozart, Einstein, Steven King…and a thousand more, were…curious. They shared a passion to know: What would happen…IF?
Yeah, but… When I plop down in my common sea of old cronies at the coffee bar at Wegmans, that’s the first thing I hear. “Yeah, but…” plus a truckload of qualifying phrases designed to convince you to give up before you even start. “Yeah, but…you ain’t no spring chicken anymore. Yeah, but…do you realize you’re competing with 6 billion other people? Yeah, but I don’t have the time. Yeah, but, I don’t have the energy.” Yeah, but… Yeah, but… Yeah, but… Yeah, but gets you exactly nowhere in life.
For what it’s worth, about six hours have passed since the last paragraph up above. Right now it’s a little after 2 am and my Muse has chosen to drag me out of bed to get this down for you. …great.
I had half-jokingly considered kicking off this up-coming lecture with this question to the audience: When was the last time you got in a fist-fight over: What is Art? It’s supposed to be a stupid question…but it really isn’t. 40 years ago back in Tucson, I actually did get into one…with a raku potter over that very subject. Actually….it still sounds stupid…but it isn’t.
Here’s why: Creativity, Passion and Curiosity are bellwethers. They are the three canaries in the coal mine of your mind. Art…and sometimes a good sense of humor are the manifestations that you’re still doing okay. In many instances, ART is confirming that there’s still beauty…but also absurdity in the world. Sometimes ART is thumbing our noses at what frightens us. And sometimes ART is just for FUN!!! What a lovely concept! Jeff Koons’ balloon dog above has only mission: to make you smile.
When you’ve lost your sense of humor, you’ve lost much more than you think.
Strangely, James Taylor summed it up in a song that’s little known. Here are a few of lines from The Secret to Life…though it’s a lot better when JT sings it in the link below.
The secret to life is enjoying the passing of time.
Any fool can do it. There ain’t nothing to it.
Einstein said that we can never understand it all.
And since we’re only here for awhile…we might as well show some style.
Isn’t it a lovely life?
You can literally see the twinkle, the light in someone’s eyes when that little kid is still alive and doing okay inside them. And you can also see it in a half-second when it’s not there…guys coming back from war with PTSD…families discovering that one of their loved ones has cancer…and a hundred other ways.
Most recently, I saw that little kid waking back up inside Pamela. After being hit with the worst word on the planet last year, the C word, after months and at her final check-up with her surgeon she turned to him and said, “Soooo….. Henry and I won’t have to dig that hole in the back yard?” ………Candidly…at the moment she said that, though her little kid had awakened, my little kid was still in shock from it all. I couldn’t laugh right then, and I lost it.
Sometimes your very survival requires you to go back inside your mind and wake up that little kid. Sometimes, your very survival may depend on it. Soooooo….yeah, it really is worth getting into a fist fight over. And the entire purpose of this lecture is to encourage you to trudge down into the caverns of your mind and then blow the doors off that prison cell where you’ve locked your little kid…locked away the wonder…locked away the curiosity, the passion, the art. That’s your goal and it’s also your duty if you want to truly thrive on this planet.
And now…fellow children, let’s sit back and have some fun. I’m kicking off with a song. It’s by Dylan and it’s called Back Pages. It’s on You Tube, with Dylan, Clapton, McGuinn, Harrison, Petty, and Young.
There’s a passage to listen for. It goes, “But I was so much older then. I’m younger than that now.” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VbPa31KOZg0
Thanks, and good night,
thank you so much–have watched Sir Ken and couldn’t agree with him more. This past weekend with my granddaughter confirmed his thoughts. She loves art, and her art teacher praises her while her computer teacher say she does not listen and according to Addison talks to other teachers about her. How awful is that for an 8 year old to deal with. She made a card for the art teacher telling how much she liked her.( also told me she would never make a card for her computer teacher) I try to let her express herself whenever she visits..Pottery, painting drawing and writing( she was writing a book but somehow got discouraged and didn’t finish the story. Love the creative time with both girls. 4 and 8 yrs old.
Thanks for the observations. My favorite Ken Robinson story: Little kid drawing a picture… Teacher says,”What are you drawing?” Kid says, “I’m drawing the face of God.”Teacher says, “But no one knows what God looks like.” Kid, “Well…they will in a minute.”
Very thought provoking. I had never seen that TED talk and despite being a lover of James Taylor’s music I had never heard that song. Listen to that little voice in the back of your brain and go off course from what you are supposed to talk about. Lord, with an hour and a half, you have time to discuss several topics! Doesn’t the University know why TED talks are only 20 minutes?!
Yeah, I’m thinking of breaking up that hour and a half lecture with about thirty minutes of dancing in the middle…….. The prime directive is Do Not Bore!
I love it. I still splash barefoot in puddle & sing “ I wouldn’t grow up” when anyone suggests that. Why isn’t what you wrote the answer to the lecture?
I think I get it from my 94 year old Mom. She gets a twinkle in her eye’s whenever she is handed a baby or when she is up to some mischief.
Good question, though not easy to answer. I think when I was asked to speak, they were looking for a standard “boiler plate” kind of lecture. I.e., “I grew up liking art. I make art and I write books. Here are pictures of my art and quotes from my books.”….kind of a glorified Show & Tell. I like to scratch deeper if I can and find out why people…not just me, get into the arts…and how they thrive.