Slow down. Look around. Moments ago I was sitting on a train on my way to work. The train arrived at Flinders Street and like most mornings I began rushing off to platform 6 for my next train. Until I saw a little girl, standing, swaying, and looking at a big ‘dumb ways to die’ piece of advertising art work.
Dumb ways to die
Forgetting where I was going I stopped and observed the girl. She was smiling. People rushed and dodged all around her, their headphones blaring and fingers frantically conveying some critical messages on their phones. Yet she saw straight through them. She only saw the art work. She giggled as an unknown adventure unfolded in her mind. If only she would write it down and give it to me.
Suddenly a ‘big’ grabbed the little girl by the arm and pulled her off in to the crowd. The girls eyes fixed on the image.
I’m now lost. I know where I need to be going, but I find myself among the masses. My headphones in, but making no sound. My feet carrying me, but without direction or urgency. My mind is at peace.
So many people are rushing. Each looking as if the world will implode if they do not arrive at their destination at the earliest possible time. Many move with direction but not with urgency, but only few stop to look around. Like a movie in fast forward the still images, the people without urgency, stand out. These are the people I want to meet.
The crowd settles and comes to life on loop with the arrival and departure of trains. I now stand and stare at the same piece of artwork as the little girl. What was in her mind?
Earlier this week I was listening to a Ted Talk on creativity, and how we are now living in a world where mistakes are stigmatized. We are taught that making a mistake is unacceptable and that we must do everything possible to avoid them. The talk (at 5:00 mins) gives an example of three children who were reenacting the nativity scene and were playing the three kings. The first child came forward and said “I bring you Gold”, the second came forward and said “I bring you Mare” and the third came forward and said “Frank sent this”. The third child clearly not understanding what Frankincense was, but the point rather is that, as a child, he was not afraid to have a go. He was not afraid of being wrong.
I feel that this is deeply true of my own life. As a child I can’t recall ever being anxious of making a mistake, though as a child I knew so little. Every day was a new adventure full of so much unknown. I can recall role playing with my friends, cops and robbers, or some other character based game making assumptions about the roles of the characters we played without a second thought as to the accuracy of our assumptions. We would make assumptions (without real world experience) about how it is really the lawyer who gets to kill the robber and how, no, the police man doesn’t drive the car, he has a driver! dah! Creativity ran wild in my mind as a child, yet now it seems to have largely faded away.
So what happened?
Unfortunately I think the answer is that I was put through the educational system. I don’t mean to undermine the importance of an education and of learning. But I am concerned that from as early as I can remember, my work was graded and compared against my peers, and no matter the difference in the students, we were all graded under the same system. No matter what the product, the teacher would rate it, C+, and then rank it against the rest of the class. Of course, the only way to do better was to make less mistakes. Soon enough, by making a mistake, I felt inadequate. But why is it wrong to make a mistake?
Up until year 10 at high school it’s fair to say I was a pathetic student. I got into fights, had several suspensions and countless detentions and received deplorable marks in most of my subjects. I remember being tested for ADD and being made to attend anger management lessons because “there was something wrong with me”. That’s bullshit. There was nothing wrong with me. I ended up doing incredibly well. Went on further to get Honors in Engineering at University and then held down a professional job for over three years (that I have now elected to leave). The problem was that my individuality was squandered, my creativity was stripped from me as I was forced to comply with a system that was not built for me. A system that I don’t believe even caters for the majority.
Only now that I have been through the whole system including the employment at the end am I really learning to appreciate the value of creativity. The value of having a go. The value of producing something original and not being concerned with its accuracy or whether people will like it or not. Just over a week ago I disconnected my blog from my Facebook. I could see that quite a few people from Facebook seemed to be reading my writings and it concerned me. But why? Because this is the way that we have been taught. What if someone doesn’t like what i’m writing? What if someone I know reads something about me that’s personal and starts talking about me? What if people laugh at me? What if i’m not good enough? Why do I care?
I am not ashamed of who I am. Or am I? If I am truly not ashamed of who I am, and who I am becoming, then why am I concerned about who reads what I write? Why do I write? The older I get, the more I realize that I don’t know very much about myself, or life, or the future, or anything. The more I learn the more I realize I just don’t know. Making mistakes is natural. I am not ashamed of my mistakes. We live and learn and we collect scars. I have a few scars now. Before I am done on Earth I will carry many. But in the process of getting my scars I am going to truly live.
Soooo. Quitting my professional Job…. Mistake? Maybe. But who cares! Time to tackle a new problem.