Every once in a while, I get the urge to dust off a soapbox, climb up on it, and see if it wobbles. Today is one of those "once in a while"s.
Today's dusty box:
commercialism vs. creativity!!
Obviously, the biggest reason any family enjoys creating things with each other is the sheer joy of using brains and hands and imaginations to make something practical, silly, beautiful and/or functional. Every human has some sort of creative energy,
though it looks different for each person, and there's a very tangible "buzz" that comes from seeing a need and finding your own way to meet it! The first time a baby figures out how to get from point A to B, creative thinking is involved. It's all about experimentation and problem solving, really, and then pouring yourself into the process, be it abstract or concrete.
In my (increasingly humble) opinion, one of the saddest artificially-manufactured deaths our
creative brains can meet
is early life programming (literally, consumerist ideals directed at toddlers and children) through television commercials and product imprinting. I'll save the gender-specific marketing rant for another day. ;)
Rather than exuberantly hollering "let's MAKE such-and-such for lunch!", children have literally been programmed by commercials and ads to say, "I want to go to McDonalds!" Why? Because marketers take advantage of childrens' natural instinct to learn things through socialization. When the social "norm" (aka, the excitable kids and adults on television) becomes begging for certain things and enjoying them, kids perceive this as normal human existence and try to emulate it. We're seriously screwing our children up by letting greedy people exploit normal biological process. (Normally, I'd never say that out loud, for fear of others feeling badly, but, today, I'm mostly speaking loudly to myself.)
However, if kids perceive the social norm as children and adults enjoying outdoors, actually
preparing food, finding creative solutions to their problems (rather than simply buying a solution every time), they readily accept that they'll be able to do it, too. Their personalities start to breathe, and that's a lovely thing to behold. (At this point, I want to express a heartfelt thanks to the friends and family in my life who are willing to spend time in our garden and kitchen and sewing table and hiking trail with our kids: you're investing in the future when you do this, and it doesn't go unnoticed or unappreciated! It takes a village...)
Obviously, we're not all interested or cut out for everything "crafty". (For example, I'm an
abysmal failure at knitting, no matter how frenzied the craze becomes.) Fortunately, "crafty" is only a very small niche in the universe of creativity. There are so many different levels of enjoyment and angles of attack for creative expression, it boggles the mind.
The most obvious diversity to me would be the people in my own life: My spouse enjoys woodworking. A few good friends charm mouth-watering creations out of the kitchen at a rate that's required me to purchase new jeans. ;P My mom enjoys making up her own sewing
patterns. Nate and I have brothers out of whom creativity practically leaps at every turn, no matter what the material of choice. My dad enjoys figuring out new ways to make his greenhouse more efficient. Another friend is a genius at interpersonal problem solving, and is constantly finding new ways to communicate effectively. My 2yo enjoys smearing chocolate pudding in her hair and drawing designs into the goo. We all have the ability!
People don't even have to be remarkably inventive or artistic to awaken the "create!!" functions of the brain. There's no need to be impressive: thinking out of the box is simply part and parcel of the experience of being a living, breathing human. We needn't be snobby or lauded or pretentious about our endeavors in order to stoke the fire of the human soul, and free ourselves from the need to identify ourselves with the mass-produced "creations" of others. Anything we can do to crawl out of the carefully constructed commercial boxes modern life has fallen into, in order to reclaim a little bit of human experience, is a truly good thing.