That's the big question...

I've been working on this poster in fits and starts for a while. Like so much of what Mary Oliver shares, I thought it to be a good thing to slow down with these words. Here's an extended passage from Long Life, the beautiful build up to the world's big question:

Poets must read and study, but also they must learn to tilt and whisper, shout, or dance, each in his or her own way, or we might just as well copy the old books. But, no, that would never do, for always the new self swimming around in the old world feels itself uniquely verbal. And that is just the point: how the world, moist and bountiful, calls to each of us to make a new and serious response. That's the big question, the one the world throws at you every morning. "Here you are, alive. Would you like to make a comment?"

Mary Oliver from Long Life

What a lovely invitation, don't you think? And one that only you can answer...and me...and everyone else...but only we can take our lives, our perspective, our utterly unique self and craft some kind of creative contribution, some kind of responce... be it poetry or painting or motherhood or engineering or gardening or whatever.

I have a couple more lines of Ms. Oliver's I'd like to interpret, at which time I'll print some posters and make a little package for her. In the mean time, we're facebook friends via her agent. Do you think she's the type to google herself and scour through all the webpages about her until she finds my blog? I think probably not. I'm pretty confident the surprise is safe.

intelligence, creativity and androgyny

I read A Whole New Mind by Daniel Pink recently and continue to mull over his reference to Mihalyi Csikszantmihalyi’s studies on boundary crossing, particularly in relation to gender. Here’s some food for thought:

In Csikszantmihalyi’s research, he found that “when tests of masculinity/femininity are given to young people, over and over one finds that creative and talented girls are more dominant and tough than other girls, and creative boys are more sensitive and less aggressive than their male peers.....A psychologically androgynous person in effect doubles his or her repertoire of responses and can interact with the world in terms of a much richer and varied spectrum of opportunities.”

This is a pretty loaded topic for me. I remember debating (as I often did) as a preteen with a male leader in my deeply conservative religious background about the leadership abilities of women....One of his statements, ever more incredulous as time goes by: “perhaps there are a few women capable of the kind of leadership necessary for a Supreme Court appointment, but those women would never be attractive to most men.” I don’t remember the other details of the “conversation” but I know it didn’t get any better. I left feeling utterly defeated because somewhere in the dialogue, my eyes welled up with tears, and I assumed he took that as proving his point: myself, an example of a female clouding logic with emotion.

Fast forward 20 years. I’ve found myself gravitating toward so many boundary crossing individuals, particularly in art school. I’m surrounded by a community of friends who value my varied contributions. I’m married to a man who deeply admires both my sensitivity and my logic. I should feel utterly free to exercise this wide repertoire of responses, depending on what’s most needed in any given situation. And while I’m more free than I’ve ever been, there is certainly still more growth yet for me in this place.

Compelling design (and while we’re at it, a compelling life) takes the ability to listen, empathize, generously also requires courage, assertiveness, and confidence.....wrap all these together into one person, and you’ve got a pretty damn attractive human being, male or female.

And while we’re talking about attractive people, you know you like that suit on David Bowie....