We were promised a future of flying cars and robot slaves. I love my smart phone, but pinch me if the future doesn’t look an awful lot like the 80's. I blame the creative people.
Take my house for example. It is a nice enough building, but it’s the same as every other house in the world. Paint covers drywall which covers wood beams spaced exactly 16 inches apart.
Am I the only person bothered by this?
I find it odd that the average home is indestinguishable from the one across the street. It could have been built last year or half a century ago, the formula is the same. If anything the materials have gotten cheaper and the build quality has deteriorated over the years.
I know what you are thinking. “Adrian, if every house was a work of art nobody would be able to afford them.” Allow me to disagree.
Let’s do a thought experiment. Try to imagine a world where everybody suddenly began utilizing their full creative potential. Would the result be utopia or armageddon?
Some people might say that society would come to a grinding halt. Who would do all the manual labor? Somebody’s gotta flip the burgers. If our accountants get too creative how can we trust their numbers? Surgery is no place for self expression. What good is creativity to a mailman or a cab driver?
I pondered this question as I did some home maintenance last weekend. I imagined how my house might be different if the hands that built it were powered by a creative mind, a person who had spent his life mastering the art of home building.
As I imagined this imaginary builder at first I felt sorry for him. Surely he would be depressed because although he had a vision for a better house he would face amazing resistance. He wouldn’t have the authority to deviate from the blueprints. He wouldn’t have the budget to select better materials. He wouldn’t have permission to fail should his new ideas go awry. Most of all he would be battling the expectations of society that long ago decided that our houses be built a certain way.
Buckminster Fuller, who knew a thing or two about innovation said,
“You never change things by fighting the existing reality. To change something, build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete.”
Giving a construction worker the burden of creativity at first seems cruel. It seems compassionate to instead give him an education that teaches him the “correct” way to build a house. Give him simple tools, a formula, and a boss to make sure he never deviates from the plan. He gets a paycheck and we get cheap houses that are basically good enough.
But wait. My idealistic scenario asked what the world would look like if everybody was utilizing their full creative potential. Keyword everybody. If that were the case the construction worker would flourish. The obstacle of his boss transforms into mutual collaboration. Budgets and materials are controlled by specialists who contribute additional collaboration. The mandate of society wouldn’t be affordable conformity but rather progress and innovation.
Indeed. But I like to imagine this world. How great it would be if everything we interacted with possessed the integrity of craftsmanship.
Nobody expects you to change the world. Most likely your job description has been written to reduce the burden of creativity. Even those of us who work in so-called “creative” fields have countless excuses allowing us to avoid attempting truly innovative work. It doesn’t have to be this way.
No, we don’t exist in a world where creativity is demanded of each of us. Instead we come home from work and put patches on the walls of the cubes we call home.
Yes, we believe in heroes who can transcend the system that boxes us in. We still cheer when, once in a while, an artist does the impossible and we are able witness a creation so great it manages to slip the surly bonds of earth to touch the face of God. That’s where I want to live.