With 2011 just beginning, Tim Heintzman looks at how we can use our creativity and become “cunning outlaws” to make this a “brave” new year.
Kerry Slavens, the inspirational editor of Life As A Human, sent a note out early this year to advise all the writers and contributors that our ezine had been the recipient of not one, but two, awards from Canadian Weblog Awards. Pretty good recognition from our peers for a publication that is just shy of being one year old. She thanked us for our work and offered her congratulations along with those of Gil Namur, the publisher. I responded with my own thanks for providing us with the incubator to develop our ideas and skills and ended by saying: “Here’s to a brave new year.”
Life As A Human is an opportunity for people to express themselves on issues that personally affect them, sharing experiences, offering insights and providing a little respite from the crap that life throws at us from time to time. My own experiences in the past year have run the gamut from sublime joy to wrenching sadness. And I am sure I am not alone in this.
New Year’s is the time when all sorts of people make resolutions that will help improve their lives. From moderating liquor intake, losing weight, being more considerate of a spouse or partner, and not bemoaning one’s unfortunate lot in life, New Year’s resolutions are usually self focussed. Perhaps that’s a little too simplistic as some folks promise to join a charitable organization, get involved in community work or head to some distant place to help those less fortunate than themselves.
Wanting change to improve ourselves and our world is not a bad thing. The problem with that is there are ways to do these things that are prescribed by so-called authorities: we call these rules. Rules are not in themselves bad things either. Except when the rule subverts its original intention and creates more chaos than what it was intended to prevent.
Many of the readers of Life As A Human will be familiar with TED talks, itself a source of inspiration and groundbreaking ideas. A recent address by Barry Schwartz, titled “Using our practical wisdom”, [see video at end of this post] talked about the notion of wisdom as being a more useful concept than rules to guide us in our deliberations as to how to solve or rectify a problem or achieve an objective. He cited a number of examples that showed how a little wisdom, judiciously applied, could create a new outcome that not only addressed the original intention of the rules but provided a better solution. His examples came from the worlds of jurisprudence, education, finance and philosophy. And the one common factor in those solutions was courage.
There were judges who “bent the rules” to address cases that on the surface appeared to break the law but had extenuating circumstances that made the punishment inappropriate to the perpetrator’s personal situation. If they simply followed the rules it would be really nothing more than looking in a catalog, finding the crime and applying the appropriate punishment. Where is the judgement in that?
There were educators who followed the curriculum knowing full well that the bulk of their students needed creative approaches to help them learn. So they fast tracked the regulated curriculum and found engaging ways to make the learning more relevant in the time left over. Sounds like a better approach than ramming a bunch of rote learned stuff into their brains of which they have no real comprehension.
He cited the case of banks that made loans to communities that ordinarily would not be prime candidates but which made a commitment to help their clients manage their finances and not leave them hanging out to dry if they defaulted on their loans. The clients lifted themselves out of difficult circumstances and the banks still managed to make a profit without relying on government intervention.
In all these instances, the individuals involved had the wisdom to see that rules were ineffective to achieve their goals and had the courage to want make a difference. He called them “cunning outlaws”. As a creative individual I have always looked to do things in new or unusual ways. Which may explain my familiarity with an impecunious lifestyle. Perhaps what I was lacking was a touch of wisdom or maybe I was overdosed on testosterone fuelled stubbornness. At any rate I have learned from my mistakes and am trying to make a difference both in my own life and the community in which I live.
The learning there is if I endeavour to make a difference in my community by doing things differently, or as a “cunning outlaw”, I probably will make a difference in my own life. The courage to do that comes in focussing not on me but the greater community in which I live.
So when I say, “Here’s to a brave new year” I mean here’s to having the courage to say the rules do not make the game. But its outcome depends greatly on how you understand it is to be played. My hope is that all those in positions of great responsibility engage in a brave new year and find the courage to leave the stale old status quo behind.
Watch the video “Using our practical wisdom” with Barry Schwartz…
“Taking a big risk to get a photo in the Grand Canyon. Photographer unknown. From Weird Things and Squidoo. Read story of photos here.