How does a big idea begin?
How do you eat an elephant?
That’s what this is. It’s the first bit of inertia towards a big, scary idea in my head. It’s not even fair to call it “my idea.” I am sure that other people have had big ideas a lot like it.
One bite at a time, of course. But at some point, you have to take that first bite, even though you’re worried about how hard it’s gonna be to chew.
The point is — I’m getting it out of my head and into the world to see what happens.
So … what’s the big idea? Like most ideas, this one came from something that’s a problem, something frustrating, something that needs to change.
Technically, it’s two things. Let’s start there.
My beefs with education and religion
Two things you should know about me if you don’t already:
- I was homeschooled until high school
- I grew up in a Christian home, and my parents were in ministry
My parents officially became children’s pastors around the same time I started public high school. There’s a lot more to unpack around those two facts, and we’re not going to get into it, but you need to know those facts because they brought me to a pair of opinions I now hold:
- I don’t like school
- I don’t like church, either
What I dislike most about school is how it often trains kids to dread learning, to stop being curious, stop playing, and stop working things out themselves. Instead, it teaches them how to stay in a single-file line, follow directions, do as their told, and of course … cheat the system to get by.
School was invented to pump out obedient factory workers for the Industrial Age. It is not preparing our kids for the future of work, nor has it prepared many of us for the work of now. How could it? Not many people saw “now” coming, or at least not many cared.
What I dislike most about some churches (specifically, the Christian Evangelical church in the U.S.) is that many places of worship are more like thinly-disguised marketplaces. You may recall, this is exactly what pissed off Jesus in the temple. Where there should be a culture of giving there is a culture of getting and “What’s in it for me?”
Beyond the so-called prosperity gospel and shady preachers, there is an entire industry targeting Christian consumers. It’s about selling Christian music, Christian movies, Christian t-shirts, Christian self-help books, and the list goes on. Christianity in America is just as much a demographic as a religion.
Too many churches are focused on what happens inside their walls or how to get people inside of those walls (especially the right kinds of people). Too many church-goers expect their experience to be more like a country club membership than an opportunity to serve their community.
I sincerely apologize for being an overly opinionated, self-righteous ass (or at least sounding like one).
Time for me to get off the soapbox. Time to stop the negativity. Let’s talk about making a positive change … about how things could be instead.
Picture a place
What if there were somewhere people of all ages, backgrounds, and beliefs could come together as a community and learn to develop creative practices that enhance their everyday lives and the lives of those around them? It’d be almost like a school or a church, or maybe more like what education and religion should be.
This could be a place where local experts and artisans hold workshops where young and old can try out a new creative skill, be it artistic or practical, and then take it home and develop it.
There could be workshops for:
- Creative skills like writing, drawing, and public speaking
- Traditional art like painting, sculpting, and photography
- Practical skills like, carpentry, cooking, and automotive repair (all of which require creativity)
- Performance art like acting, music, and dance
- Outdoor activities like birdwatching, gardening, and landscaping
- Media skills like filmmaking, podcasting, audio engineering, and graphic design
- Technology skills like website building, app development, and 3D printing
- Entrepreneurial skills like starting a business or a non-profit
The possibilities are almost endless.
There are also real benefits that come with practicing creativity in your everyday life:
- Creativity supports our mental and physical health and wellness
- Creativity makes us better students/learners
- Creativity makes us more effective at work
- Collaborative creativity connects us with a community
- Creativity helps us see the world in different ways
- Creativity boosts self-confidence
- Creativity lets us live life more abundantly
- Creativity increases happiness
These aren’t just blanket statements. There’s research that explores each one of those benefits.
It shouldn’t stop there. Creativity can be more than a self-serving act. Your creative works are gifts that need to be shared with the world, and when we come together to create with purpose.
If you believe in God, and you believe you were created in His image, then you should view creativity as the ultimate act of worship to the ultimate Creator.
If you don’t believe in God, but you’re hoping to find some purpose in life or a way to stop going through the same meaningless motions day after day, you should create.
Creativity is our opportunity to give back. Creativity is our opportunity to leave something behind that lives on after we are gone.
Together, our works of creativity can make a difference in the lives of people around us.
- A traveling community choir singing in unexpected places for those who need it most
- A team of aspiring chefs cooking amazing food for the hungry
- Artists and gardeners gathering to beautify a dreary part of the city
- Performers bringing joy to the depressed and downtrodden
- The handiwork of mechanics, carpenters, and other trades offered to those who can’t afford to have things fixed
- Media and marketing skills used to promote positive messages and support worthy causes
- Nature lovers banding together to groom trails and clean up parks
There are already cool places like makerspaces and after-school programs that encourage creativity. There are already many chances for us to volunteer to help people. If we want a creative outlet we can find it. If we want to make a difference, we can sign up at any time.
I’ve attended churches that held fine arts festivals, which encouraged creativity among kids in the congregation. But, the purpose was not to serve others so much as put on a show at the end.
What makes this idea different is that we need to make creating with purpose a regular part of our lives. Creativity is a catalyst that can transform us and transform the world around us.
Creativity can bring us together, remind us of what makes us human, and bring us closer to God or our life’s purpose.
That’s what’s behind this idea called “The Creative Mission.”
You were born to create (not consume)
That nagging feeling in the pit of our stomachs? It’s trying to tell us something.
I’m not necessarily talking about the “God-shaped hole in your heart.” I’m talking about the feeling of emptiness that comes after you binge Netflix, go down a YouTube rabbit hole, play Fortnite for six hours straight, impulse shop on Amazon, or eat an entire sleeve of Girl Scout cookies.
That’s the feeling of untapped potential.
I don’t know about you, but I’m sick of that feeling.
I didn’t grow up with cable TV. Then when my wife and I had our first kid, we got a subscription. At first, I was excited. Truth be told – I love TV and movies. I love to be entertained. After a little while, however, I felt like I had a duty to watch cable in order to make it worthwhile. That was despite the fact that there was nothing I really wanted to watch.
If consuming content and material possessions feels like your job, that’s because it kind of is. If we’re all in some sort of machine, our part would be three-fold:
- Mindlessly make crap for others to consume so we can get a paycheck
- Mindlessly spend our money on crap
- Mindlessly consume the crap
We go to work so we can put gas in the car so we can get to work. We go to work so we can pay for the kids’ daycare so we can go to work.
We go to work so we can pay for the fast-food that makes us fat so that we feel better while we sit at our desks getting fatter.
We go to work so we can pay for the gym membership to run like rats in a hamster wheel and work it all off (the stress and the calories).
We go to work so we can have health insurance so we can afford the medical bills – most of which are the result of what we’ve consumed.
We go to work so we can pay for the therapy we need because we’re depressed because our lives are empty.
We go to work to save up enough money to keep us alive as long as possible after we retire so that we can keep on consuming. You don’t really retire until you really retire (by that I mean die). Until then, it’s our job to keep consuming. Feed the machine and the machine feeds you.
It hasn’t always been like this.
Thousands of years ago, our ancestors made a huge leap when they started using their creative brains. Humans made tools from stone and painted on cave walls. We started telling stories and making music around the fires we created.
Creativity wasn’t a frivolous pursuit. Creativity was necessary for survival. How else could clumsy, naked-ass humans survive in a world of peril and predators?
Back then, humans took the time to stare up at the stars and imagine what could be. Our creative brains made the stars take shape. Then, we used them to find our way, and we started to understand our universe.
It’s not too late to turn things around. We haven’t been a society of consumers for very long.
Some say it started when Henry Ford introduced the Model-T others with the end of WWII. Whatever the case, our consumer culture has been the norm for not much more than a century.
No doubt, there have been some things about consumerism that have made our lives better and made the world a better place. But then, why are so many of us so bummed out, so discontented, so frustrated, lonely, and bored?
Could it be because we’re lacking a huge part of what makes us human? Is something out of balance?
If we only have energy left to eat dinner and stare at screens at night, something is screwed up.
If we only have artificial connections to people through our digital devices, something is wrong.
If we say we’re too busy to create and connect with people in real life, something needs to change. If we spend hours and hours every day consuming when we could be setting aside time to create – we’re cheating ourselves.
We were born to create. What’s stopping us?
Next steps: Where do we go from here?
I’ve been thinking about these problems for a long time. I’m a reflection of these problems, too.
I’m fat and lazy. I watch too much TV, eat too much food, and spend too much time on my phone all while I bitch about how horrible it all is. Maybe you’re in the same boat. Maybe you’re ready to make a change, too.
Problems with education, religion, and the consumer culture seem massive. They are massive.
The idea behind The Creative Mission, or whatever it ends up becoming, is also big. Unless I win the Powerball or someone suddenly decides to donate millions to the cause, we’re not going to have a building with classrooms, a garage, workshop, computer lab, auditorium, kitchen, etc, And, maybe we never will.
How do we reverse these trends in our own lives and the lives of those around us?
We’re going to start with this website. Sharing ideas. Encouraging each other to try things and put their creative work into the world.
Then, we’ll take small steps: the first gathering, the first workshop, the first blog post, the first act of creative service.
The first bite of the elephant has been chewed and swallowed. Pass the A1 sauce, it’s time for some more. We’re on a mission.
An Invocation for Beginning from Ze Frank
This video has been the inspirational kick in the butt I’ve needed before and it helped me again before writing this. It’s worth watching if you don’t mind a little cursing, which I do not.