Wednesday 11 February 2009

Bears, Wolves and Clowns: Developing a Playful Creativity – by Jonathan Dorsett

It was a clear skied August day in the bustling Alpine resort. Holiday makers rubbed shoulders with locals in the outdoor cafes and bars that surrounded the busy market place. Fashionable young Italians paraded themselves around the square, while older jacketed men played backgammon under the shade of the olive trees by the central fountain. It was a timeless and tranquil scene, only broken by the arrival of the gleaming red open-top Lotus.

All heads turned at the sound of the thumping music that emanated from the car’s stereo as it drew up at the pedestrian crossing by one of the alfresco bars; the driver clearly looking for admiration as he proudly showed-off his handsome vehicle and his cargo of exquisitely beautiful young ladies. An almost hypnotic spell descended upon the on-looking crowd as the middle aged man behind the wheel soaked up the attention with a pompous smile and general air of self importance. The feeling of envy and awe in those watching could have remained unbroken had it not been for the clown who, by chance, was waiting at the crossing as the driver pulled up.

Seeing the arrogance and superiority of the Lotus owner, and perhaps sensing the effect his Lording-over was having on the crowd, the clown sidled up to the car, squatted down in a mimed seated position next to the driver, stretched out his arms in front of himself as if holding a steering wheel, and honked his imaginary horn before combing his fingers back through his hair as one might imagine the slick looking man next to him doing. The effect on both the onlookers and the driver was instantaneous. Envy and awe were replaced by mirth and laughter; the driver’s self-importance and attention seeking were suddenly deflated by shame and embarrassment. As the clown continued on his journey across the road and the driver sped off out of town, a lightness and feeling of joyful commonality was shared by all in the square.

What happened in that moment was a piece of transformational creativity and playful activism that turned the power dynamic between the driver and on-lookers on its head. As a friend recounted the story to me a few years ago, I was reminded about the power of creativity in unmasking the pretensions and social constructs within which we ensnare ourselves.

‘Creativity and Expression’ is one of the five key exploration areas that we explore on the Peace School programme. Creativity is a fundamental part of our being that we all share and have access to; not something confined only to those who follow artistic pursuits. Our creativity is part of what makes us human. When the bible speaks of God making us in His image, I believe a huge part of this is our creative drive and ability that we see in God Himself as creator.

Reflecting on the story of the Clown and the Lotus, three strands of creativity that we explore on Peace School come alive for me . . . [more]