Ideas are like children, they need food, rest, cleaning, and interaction in order to grow. It’s important for ideas to go through this process before you let them out of the bag. Hold them tight. Raise them right. Lest you see your idea out in the world doing something you wouldn’t want them to be doing.
Those who care for material honor its creator, tend to it for the sake of its longevity, and feel a duty to teach it well.
Those who consume material simply eat it up, and then move on to the next thing. In the moment, there may be care, but it leaves once the consuming is done. There isn’t a vision of the necessity of longevity.
Those who use material, leverage their knowledge of the content for a gain that does not serve the material in any way. They don’t care for the material, honor the creators, or feel any duty to teach it well. They only care that the material provides what they desire – be it notoriety, financial gain, or something else.
Those who use material are manipulators and for all practical purposes destroyers of culture, by nature of them breaking the connection between the material and all people and values associated with that material.
Those who consume material are benign consumers, they buy in, fill themselves, and leave. The harm done here is the perpetuation of a consumer culture, and loss of vision for the future.
Those that care for the material simply care.
Now, go back and re-read this while replacing the word “material” with the word “people.”
I was recently at a meeting of arts practitioners and arts organization leaders in the City of Vancouver that opened with a conversation from members of the three First Nations upon whose land the city of Vancouver has been built.
During the course of the conversation which traveled through many topics, including reconciliation, redress, symbolism, language, and more, one of the members said, as an aside, “We don’t have a word for art…”
I’ve been thinking about that statement for a while. If art, isn’t art, what could it be? It could be another form of language. It could be another form of expression. It could be another form of teaching.
Whatever it is, one thing for sure: art in its fullest form is connected to everything that there is about being human. This idea that “art” carries stories, histories, cultural values, ways of life, and information beyond technique and aesthetics is common for those who have engaged in any kind of oral tradition. Such an understanding brings to light the true power of art to change the world, not just through consuming and understanding, but through the engendering of values, lived through the activity of art-making.
I wonder what would become of the world if we reminded ourselves of this power and put it to use for good?
In a deconstructed world very little exists that should be taken for granted. Yet when we give and receive information, we often find it without any context (or minimal).
It’s worse for kids. They ask why, and we say, “because I said so.” Maybe the explanation would be too long and complicated. Maybe we don’t actually know the answer.
No matter the question, there is one thing we should be able to offer to anyone who asks us. Assuming honesty here, and especially when teaching. We should be able to, and always should, share who our teachers are (and were), where we learned something, and why that lineage is important to understand.
It’s up to us to share. It’s up to the listeners to take it in.
I recently saw an awesome performance by the singer/songwriter Khari Wendell McClelland. It was in an intimate venue, where the audience all seemed within reach of where he was on the stage, at all times. He began and ended his show solo, singing, without a microphone.
There is something deeply moving for me about hearing the human voice un-amplified. Same with many instruments (including tap dancing). The sounds affect me differently. I pay a different kind of attention. I am moved differently by the experience.
For me this true on either side of the curtain, as performer or audience member. While I gladly admit to the many benefits of amplification, I also advocate for the least amount to be used in any presentation.
In a world where electronics have become the mediator of so many interactions, I wonder what would happen if we changed the current trend in the performing arts. I wonder what experiences we would have if we stripped away the decorations and returned to nature?
Trying to get kids to do “what you want them to” is a thing. When I teach I often poll my classes with this question: how do you get a child to do what you want them to? The answers are wide and varied.
- Bribe them
- Force them
- Ask them continuously (that is, nag them)
- Tell them you’ll be mad if they don’t (also bribing them)
- Punish them if they don’t (also forcing them)
Some folks even use a third party, someone they know the kids love, as leverage. Saying, “so-and-so will be mad if you don’t do this-or-that.”
I am not a child learning specialist, but I can’t see any benefit to denying a child love in order to get them to do the right thing. Don’t we want them to learn to do the right thing simply because it’s the right thing?
If that’s the case, we need to take every effort to teach them why the thing we’re asking is the right thing (we should be checking what we’re asking of them here, as well), show them how work can be playful and joyful (even while it may be difficult or effortful), and not quench their spirit.
If we bribe them, we’re teaching them that bribery works. If we force them we’re teaching them that force works. If we nag them, they will learn to nag. If we put someone on a pedestal, telling the child to do something for their sake, their hearts will be broken when they realize that that person is not pedestal worthy (and no one on this earth is). They will then begin to doubt all that they have done for that person’s sake.
Why not just teach them why the work is valuable in the first place?
In a world in which everyone is being taught that vulnerability, open-heartedness, and being affected is a good thing. Venting is a horrible practice.
Take it from someone who is considered ”high sensitive” all venting does is take the negative energy that has built up in one person and sent it over to another.
Unless the person who is being vented to is skilled at holding space – that is creating an environment in which the junk can be aired but not transferred – they end up with it themselves. And it’s not even their thing!
So let’s do one another a favor. Let’s diminish the amount of venting we do. And if we absolutely need to, let’s do it with someone we know can hold the space.
How much decoration do we need?
How many hair treatments, fashion statements, makeup appointments, or accessories do we need before we feel complete? After all, aren’t we are yearning for authenticity and honesty. Yet we continue to put on amplified expressions that ultimately serve as distractions or masks.
Take every decoration away, and we are still exactly who we are. Nothing that we put on can make any of us more or less valuable. Nothing that we change by way of external decoration can elevate us beyond our natural stature. And that’s okay. It’s supposed to be that way.
Why? Because we are all of equal value. We all have the same stature. Period.
I just wish more of us could see that.