Saturday, March 21, 2015

What's inside your box?

Exhibit A
To think outside the box. A cliché for sure. Because most of the people who tell you to think that way have no idea how to do it themselves.

Google "think outside the box" and you'll find the Wikipedia entry at #1 and a number of less significant explanations following. But the Wiki entry pretty much summarizes what we think we know about the phrase – that it grew out of a management consultant's application of a one hundred year old puzzle involving a pictorial box – connect the dots using just four straight lines. See exhibit "A". This drawing is considered your "box".

But I had never meant to refer to this box at all. When I appropriated the idiom for iThinkOutsideMyBox™, the box was metaphorical – a box full of education, religion, citizenship, morality, spirituality and subsequent beliefs – a magical box – your box of thoughts. Or as one young painter gamely stated, "The box is your brain".

But there would present itself a conundrum: How can one think outside one's box when that box has been prescribed and constructed by all the people we know in  real life – primarily the people we respect? Teachers, preachers, parents, et al. Doesn't that present a conflict? Doesn't it mean going against all we know?

And so the work around is to make the box disappear – at least temporarily, by presenting an opportunity that seems attractive, yet is so outside one's normal activity that it makes no sense to do it in the first place – thus making perfect sense.

That way, whenever anyone sits down with us in a park, or a subway concourse to paint, they've already started thinking outside their box. Voilà. I don't have to teach them a thing because they've already made a conscious decision to do it anyway – just by joining us. After that, the actual paintings are a lot less important than the activity itself. Inside of a little 3"X3" square of cardboard, I've seen people paint the thumbnails of their futures, the promises of their love, the optimism in their work that was impossible to communicate in memo form, or just the feeling of the moment unsung.

Later this summer I'll be channeling #iTOMB at a creative festival which will also include a professor of Psychology focused on creativity, a neuroscientist who brain images creative activity, a best-selling author who defined a generation, as well as the founder of the Alzheimers Poetry Project and others – a wildly disparate creative group.

And we will all be bringing a box – a box with a gift inside. The gift to think outside of our own disciplines and see what the others have brought to the party:)