What are the hardest things to do? I would wager that it is the things that the outside world does not endorse. People are given more than food as they grow up. From infancy we are fed ideas about “the way things are”. Children are naturally free-spirited, full of imagination and endlessly creative growing up. Yet over time often the destructive voices surrounding them from youth tear down the creative penchants of a child’s natural way of being. Voices of poverty, practicality, peer pressure, pain, parental guidance, etc pound on the door of their young selves and replace the imagination, shame the creative, limitless expression and drown out and curtail the free-spirited nature. It should not go unnoticed that it is very difficult to rebuild these back once they are torn down in youth, but it is possible. It is very possible. And the hope of our world and our own spirits depend upon it.
People, as anthropologists find worldwide, are naturally creators of culture. It is an organizational structure upon which the very foundations of our lives are set. We would be lost, disorganized, chaotic without it. Yet it is the role of the dreamer within each of us to critically face the faults of the culture, the chinks in “the way things are” to set them more right. Certainly there is no static perfection available in the universe, yet step by step, better by better, more apt, creative, healthy adaptations can be found.
I learned the other day that mammals were very small in the time of their genesis in the evolutionary transition from reptile toward mammal. Large reptiles were the rulers of the land, so the mammals hid underground and learned to hunt at night to escape death. After the mass extinction, mammals, who successfully hid in their tunnel systems to protect themselves from the radiation and other extreme conditions, were able to successively grow in size given the absence of the large reptiles. They terrifically adapted to their climate. Before they were kept in check by the other animals in their environment, yet grew when that variable was gone. Likewise, in the presence of negative voices, limited thinking, overwork, stuck mindsets and reinforced, outdated patterns, the imagination, creative solutions or alternatives to everyday problems do not have room to grow. Harboring and nurturing a creative idea is a challenge akin to seeing a dandelion grow through a crack in the concrete of a busy sidewalk. In the desert. In midsummer.
Growing through “the way things are” to create anything alternative is always a miracle such as this. Mindsets are one of the hardest things to stand up against, grow through and bloom from. Imagine a young child raised in poverty, strapped with financial responsibility and entrenched in familial ways of being which both encourage and stifle the child. As the child grows perhaps the imagination isn’t encouraged toward “dreaming” or envisioning different solutions for everyday problems for a myriad of reasons. Slowly over time the creative edge atrophies. I suggest that it never in fact dies, but can numb over or be cast away into a forgotten nook in some inner closet.
For a child in a situation such as this, say even raised in a financially depressed town in need of many practically creative solutions to create a better life for the town and families, it is nearly impossible to bring to light creative options. Everything that makes up “the way things are” is in opposition to this kid’s ideas. The family chides the kid when the ideas are brought up and even if the family doesn’t discourage the child, the harsh reality of the situation will. As my dad will say when I talk about the necessity of creative problem-solving in the face of ugly “realities”, “It’s great that you are thinking these things – you are very privileged. Think of the mother with three kids who has to work to put food on the table and pay bills. She doesn’t have time to think so much.” While this may be true (I honestly can’t say whether the person in this situation has the time to think as I do), in any event I can see the difficulty of “everyone’s” situation. Even if we do not witness and are a part of impoverished situations growing up, environmental pressures push us away from creative dreaming and toward fulfilling practical cultural norms.
How easy is it for any one of us to stand up in the face of norms, especially when they are tied to economic realities? Cultural norms are some of the most innocuous, entrenched, hard-to-shift patterns in existence. As Ani Difranco says of capitalism, “it’s as easy as breathing for us all to participate.” Oftentimes we don’t readily have a choice to be a part of something other than the pervasive norm because norms are the inherently organizing structures of our cultures- we produce them (or go along with them) without thought. They are “the way things are.” Yet, what if “the way things are” is not just unsuitable to the strong creative dreamers on the planet? What if the pervasive, ever-present “way things are” is actually killing life on the planet? Threatening the existence and perpetuity of our very culture? What if “the way things are” is harmful to life? To us? To animals, ecosystems, air, water….?
Truly, this isn’t a What if – this is a wake up! Wake the fuck up! The current “way things are” is in fact, LOOK AROUND PEOPLE: harmful, damaging, threatening, suicidal toward actual life. Many of the habit patterns founding western civilization are not encouraging the furtherance of life and, in fact, they are downright discouraging to the empowerment of people, the protection and prevalence of wildlife and clean air and water and healthy soils. The facts to support this are endless and I for one am continually re-surprised that more people are blind to these basic, open-your-eyes facts. Or if not turning a blind eye, unable to take beneficial action toward shifting these norms.
So, yes, I get the challenge of creative problem-solving in the face of a problem so large it’s as easy as breathing to participate. So innocuous, so prevalent it’s hard to see. I get that a dandelion growing through a crack in a concrete slab is a miracle. I get that to face and shift norms is like asking a creative idea to grow through that slab-like concrete of the mind and is nearly impossible. But it is possible. I have watched my own mind shape and shift over the last 3 years into a malleable belief-in-creativity-chamber. My creative-muscles were nearly atrophied or at least ignored, and I have seen the instigation of Belief rise again in my system. I know that it is possible to make a mind-set dance and swerve. The unexpected is possible. Life’s beauty is confirmation of that. Our greatest honor while on this planet is to take place in the co-creation of this beauty that exists as Life.
We are not separate from this Life. We are not here watching it happen, as observers or consumers of some great play created by some people other than ourselves (though the media industry would have us believe this). We are Life. We are the creators of our realities. And I don’t mean this in a new-agey at all.
Who opened that new shop in your town? Do you think it was someone so much different than you with super human capacities? Who wrote the book on the best-sellers list? Someone so far removed from you that they are in a different category? I posit that between all of us there is not so much difference in us beyond our choices. Our choices are the stuff of which we are made. Not our thoughts, but our actions. Too many people die filled with dreams. If I can stop one case of that happening in an individual human, I will find a piece of personal happiness. Too many people live lives of… how does it go, of quiet desperation. To hell with that! If you don’t believe in your dreams, who will? If you don’t believe in your one crazy idea, who will? Do you think it is your job to sit back and criticize the actors on our world-stage? Do you somehow see yourself as separate from or different than those actors – something inherently different in you that makes you an observer or consumer instead of a co-creator or conspirator in the “way things are”?
This is a call to arms, a call to action. A call to hands … in the garden, on alternative-fuel engines, on pieces of artwork & handy crafts, writings of inspiration, healthy foods for our families, the list goes on. This is a calling forth of the creative piece of your soul that may be numbed or dormant, but is in no way gone. This is a calling forth of your imagination, that piece of you that served you so well throughout childhood and then fell away as deadlines took its place. Neither I, we, nor our world can suffer a field of players too concerned with passionless things and to-dos. I cannot suffer myself this way.
This is a call to arms, hands, feet. Cultivate your creative nature every day. Believe in impossible ideas. If you have impossible ideas they are within you for a reason. You think only other people can act on their ideas? Why is this? Are other people more deserving dreamers than you? Did someone rob you of your divine right to co-create this reality we are all a part of?
If so, it is time to establish this divine creatorship as a right you also are able to rest in. No matter poor, middle-class or upper-class upbringing (or somewhere inbetween or off-the-chart), we all were perhaps faced with voices discouraging us from living our dreams. Monetary security is only one cat-call from “the way things are” away from our dreaming selves. This “way things are” is continually re-instituted by people who don’t even realize they are refurbishing a “way things are.” It’s time to recreate a “way things are” – many “ways things are” – that are friendly to fish and fauna, all creatures here as friends, as much as possible. We are not innocuous bystanders passing time here. We are here to dream and land these dreams in our lives. This is our mission here. Give me a hand, will ya?