Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Think Without Acting

We are a culture of armchair critics.

We sit on the couch and yell at athletes, telling them how to play the game. We comment on celebrities' relationships, weight & fashion choices, vicariously living the Hollywood life for the
cost of cable. We tweet, blog, Yelp, write reviews on Amazon, and webcast our opinions & critiques. I think the real reason people go wine tasting in Napa is so that they can feel like a cultured critic, swirling, sniffing and mumbling about hints of blackberry & oak.

And I'm no different. I wish I was less critical.

I can remember years ago, going to see a movie with my family. My brother & I whispered snide remarks through the whole, awful thing, like we were characters in Mystery Science Theater. But when we shuffled out of the theater and finally let loose on the movie, my Dad looked shocked, "I liked it!" That night, my cynical bro
ther & I wondered if we would rather go through life enjoying mediocre movies, books, food & whatnot and just be happy, or if we preferred our highbrow excellent taste. In the end, we decided it was better to be disappointed, miserable, cynical and cultured than be some average Joe that had no taste. ;)

All these thoughts have been swirling around in my head as I hear the incredible responses to the Kony 2012 video that is all the rage right now. It seems as though the whole world is circling the kill, waiting for their chance at a witty, pithy critique, a personal jab, and an "I told you so"-- especially since the filmmaker's very public & humiliating meltdown last week.

Like I said, I'm right there with the rest of them, ready with criticism, opinions, and (if I'm lucky) a little recognition for how I could have done it better. I want to be gracious and humble, believing the best of people, and not pushing to have my way on top, but if I'm honest, I'll admit that I bend more towards the critical than the optimistic-- at least in my knee-jerk reactions.

I attended a training last week on Creativity that got me thinking. Give me just a minute to unravel this one...
There are four different roles in the creative process, and each one is important:
  1. The Pioneer collects, gathers, wonders & dreams
  2. The Artist takes the materials around them & creates something
  3. The Judge evaluates the worth & value of the creation
  4. The Warrior goes out and does something with the creation

The first two roles tend to be more innovative, dreamy & imaginative, while the second two roles are more practical "get 'er done" types. But, in order to create something that is new, valuable, worthwhile or beautiful, we really need each role in the creative process. If we just have the first two, we sit with our heads in the clouds & get nothing done, and if we only have the second two, we either allow our criticism to stop us, or we jump into something that wasn't well planned.

Okay, I'm going to tie it together now: As I have heard & read the criticism of Kony 2012, I began asking myself: Is it better to act without thinking, or think without acting?

In so many ways, it seems that the boys at Invisible Children have acted without thinking. They have been Artists and Warriors, without taking the time for thoughtful analysis. But it seems that their "opposition" is so busy thinking through all the complexities of the issues in Central Africa that they have not acted. Is one better than the other? In this particular case, I might say Yes.

The criticism is that Invisible Children didn't do it right. And yet, here they are, with 100 million (and counting) views, and the entire world talking about Joseph Kony. I was upset about the simplicity of the film, as well, and have plenty of critiques-- but when was the last time I did a single thing for Uganda? Seriously. In all my passion & knowledge of how to approach the issue, when was the last time I actually approached it?

I am lazy and jaded, and I live in a lazy, jaded culture that would rather write something off as incomplete than step in and help complete it. We all long for something true, beautiful, creative & good in our lives, and when someone takes a stab at it, we jump all over them with our opinions as though they were a restaurant on Yelp, and not a human with thoughts, emotions, strengths and weaknesses.

We all have a role to play in the creative process, but I wonder if we have all taken the "Judge's" seat, and left the role of "Pioneer, Artist, and Warrior" vacant. I know I need more risk in my life. I need to ignore the voice of the Judge in my head a little bit more, and allow myself to innovate, create, and simply step out. Maybe the world needs a little more bad art in it. I know it certainly doesn't need another critic like me.

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