Sunday, February 10, 2013

Creativity as an Antidote to Consumerism

If my goal is to get rid of stuff, why would I spend time creating new stuff?  (Speaking of stuff, The Story Of Stuff is a great short film to watch on the process of consumption in America.)

I’m realizing as I reorient myself to my stuff that this is not just about making sure my drawers don’t overflow and my surfaces are clear of clutter.  Why do I have things that I don’t find useful and beautiful in the first place?  Why do other things that I do find beautiful and useful sit forgotten, dusty, or never quite finished?

I will never be able to avoid owning a lot of stuff.  Compared to the rest of the world, even if I am a minimalist by American standards, I will own a shitload more than I need and than the majority of the world’s population owns.  This is unsettling to me, but I think the more I am able to accept it and be extremely choosy about the amount and quality of things I do own, the more time I will have for things that matter. 

I want to value the right stuff in the right way.  Or, I want to own and use stuff in a way that reflects my values. 

I value creativity.  One of the hallmarks of being human is being able to create…stories, melodies, perspectives, ideas.  Kids do this naturally and are beautifully unrestrained.  Adults adopt a narrow definition of creativity and believe that only a unique few who are remarkably original and make a living at it are truly creative. So we bend over backwards to qualify our creations… “I’m not a real writer, I just…”.  But when we silence the critical voices in our heads, we are capable of losing ourselves in creating just like a child.

Isaac can sit at the table with playdough and turn it into snakes, towers, water, cookies, and anything else for an hour.  Eden narrates her actions into a story as she cuts with scissors and paper, some kind of dual-layered creativity.  Creativity is their play and their job and makes up a large part of their day.  When they are engaged in creating, they are completely content: no whining, no asking for something to do, no fighting, just creating. 

Isaac's boat, cut out of paper by himself

Being creative, making something with my own hands and mind and spirit, demands my full involvement.  There’s nothing left of me to be consumed by something else or consuming something else.  When I am creative, I feel content.  When I’m really engaged in the materials or the ideas, I’m not worrying about my to-do list or those dishes in the sink or that thing I said last night that was embarrassing or that skirt I really want to buy. 

Creativity might be an antidote to consumerism. 

As long as I don’t get distracted.  I have been known to browse pinterest while also browsing craigslist to find free or cheap materials to make what I’m seeing on pinterest.  But that’s really all kinds of consumption disguised as creativity.  At the end of those evenings I haven’t actually created anything, except for unrealistic expectations and dissatisfaction. 

This past weekend I was creative, and it felt good.  We hung curtains and made rooms more cozy and warm.  Kasey made and installed curtain tie-backs from thrifted forks

Bend fork into a C shape, using blow torch if necessary.  

Curtain tie-backs installed

I was going to cover the forks with wire and beads, but didn’t like the way it was looking.  So I detoured and created some wine charms instead. 

Cork wine charm

Wire and beads wine charm

Curtains, tie-backs, and wine charms are small things.  Their significance lies in the intent behind their creation – to make people who live in and visit our home feel more warmth, see more sunshine, feel cared for in knowing that they don’t have to read lip marks to figure out which wine glass is theirs.  Small things show great love.  Jesus did this too…remember his first miracle?  Surely it was healing someone who was painfully ill or feeding someone who was starving to death.  No, Jesus’ first miracle was turning water into wine at a wedding.  At his mom’s urging, Jesus created about 120 gallons of wine.  Yes, gallons.  They really knew how to party.  Once clued in by his mom (I love the subtext regarding their relationship in this story), Jesus made sure that this wedding was known as the best party of the year rather than an embarrassment to the bride and groom.  A small creative act to show great love.

There was no perfect time last weekend to do our projects and they didn’t go perfectly.  Holes had to be redrilled and superglue was spilled on the table and my fingers.  I lamented to Kasey that it took us an hour and a half to install 3 curtain rods.  He pointed out that while that was true, we had also kept our kids alive and (relatively) happy, made dinner, found a box in the garage, and cleaned up a bedroom in those 90 minutes.  When parenting is your primary job, it’s hard (impossible?) to carve out perfect time to be perfectly creative. 

But I’m learning to be content through imperfect creativity.  

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