In the same way that land, left to its own devices, will revert to forest, provided it isn’t mowed, sprayed, or grazed, when the space is made, the cars kept out, the right level of hands-off supervision, the sense of being part of a larger community created, then imagination can flourish. It’s not far beneath the surface. We just have to take the pressure of it, give it space to breathe.
“I feel very emotional right now. I feel very overwhelmed by people really responding. The feelgood factor in the room is incredible, it’s just amazing. You could go to the bank and sit in front of a man in a grey suit, or be packed into a room full of love. Really”.
This is not the first outbreak of nostalgic thinking or widely prevalent nostalgic thinking. But certainly it’s more universal, or at least widespread, than probably it has been before. Societies have, at different moments, felt nostalgic. But at a worldwide scale for so many people in so many countries to be feeling politically nostalgic I think perhaps is unprecedented.
Here is an excellent talk given at TEDx Bowdoin College by Michael Moynihan, the Vice President of Marketing at LEGO Systems, Inc. It picks up the work of Kyung Hee Kim in her paper ‘The Creativity Crisis‘, one of the best bits of research that suggests we have a creativity/imagination problem. Moynihan’s talk returns to her work a few years later to ask, have things got better, or worse?
“Personally I couldn’t imagine my world without being out listening to this. It would be hugely impoverished. It’s something you can’t do second hand. You can’t get this experience of listening to these birds second hand through a screen, or through an MP3 player, or through YouTube. You get a simulacra. You get something similar but not in any way the same. You have to get out here”.
Creativity comes from this intersection of two disparate ideas that happen to cross, and that’s where you get these creative ideas come out, and solutions. Ultimately we are social beings and we want to connect, we want to have connections. I feel like what I see in these processes is first of all where we jokingly call it ‘speed dating for communities’. People want to connect with each other anyways, so they’re getting a chance to do it and they’re getting to know all these resources and skillsets and people and there’s a lot of serendipity, a lot of accidents.
“I don’t want to get drawn in too much about talking about the machinations of Brexit and Trump, but I’m fascinated by it because what I think is going on actually is culturally we have a huge yearning for home, but we have profoundly lost touch with what home is or could be”.
As Emily told me, “now we have a grain processing unit in our town, and that’s because some people decided it was a good idea, other people agreed it was a good idea, and now it’s here. If you can do that with grain, then what else that we’re not happy with can we do that with?” What indeed.
Ultimately what sustains me is a rather heady cocktail of stubbornness, optimism, a strong faith in the human spirit and in other people, rage, a deep wish to live a life of service to others, the thrill of seeing people step up and take their lives into their own hands, all coupled with a deep sense of urgency. It works for me.
There was also a great Dutch game called ‘Spijkerpoepen’, where you had to tie a screw on the end of a piece of string to the back of your trousers, and then only by looking backwards between your legs, get the screw into a bottle. It required amazing levels of concentration, as I hope this photo conveys. You should try it at your next staff meeting at work.