Friday Link Love: How Creativity Happens, Generosity, Musical Black Holes and More

Hey there,

I’m off with the beloved to a weekend in the mountains before It All Starts Again — here are some things to keep folks busy in the meantime:

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Colossal Turns Two — Colossal

Colossal is one of my favorite sites, and I loved reading the story of how Christopher Jobson first started it. He got the idea while waiting for jury duty:

So I sat. And waited. For some reason I launched a text editor on my laptop and started making a list of things I had been thinking about doing lately (read: procrastinating for months). At first it was just ten simple things that we all put on our lists “get in shape” and “read more books”. But as I sat there, with this day of civic boredom stretching into infinity before me I became ambitious. I made spaces instead for 100 things and decided to get specific. “Learn to kayak. Run a 5k. Take a course in ceramics.” Because why not? All that pot throwing has to be pretty calming and therapeutic or meditative right? The list went on and on. There were plenty of easy things and lots of hard ones. I put “Finish a book” on there about a dozen times because I’m terrible about finishing anything I begin to read. Then, way down toward the bottom, at number 83: “Start a blog.”

The entirety of 2010 was spent Doing the List.

There’s so much to love about this when it comes to how creativity happens. First, there’s the importance of fallow time (there was no WiFi at jury duty, which is what initiated the list. Then there’s the creation of a list. Lists are powerful; I write about them in Sabbath in the Suburbs because we created lists of suggested things for the kids to do on Sabbath, to try to stave off the “I’m bored” monster. Then there’s the very unsexy part of creativity which is actually implementing all these lofty ideas, bit by bit, action by action. Here’s the first image he ever posted:

Thanks for such a great ride, Chris.

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What Successful People Do with the First Hour of Their Work Day — Fast Company

Brian Tracy’s classic time-management book Eat That Frog gets its title from a Mark Twain saying that, if you eat a live frog first thing in the morning, you’ve got it behind you for the rest of the day, and nothing else looks so bad. Gina Trapani explained it well in a video for her Work Smart series). Combine that with the concept of getting one thing done before you wade into email, and you’ve got a day-to-day system in place. Here’s how to force yourself to stick to it…

More at the link…

What do you do? I’ll admit it–I answer e-mail. Sometimes I blog. It helps me ease into the day.

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Louis CK, TJ and Dave, and the Power of Slow Comedy — Splitsider

I am a big Louis CK fan, though I don’t watch his show (maybe I should). I liked this article about comedy that builds, rather than providing a one-liner every 20 seconds (though that’s fune too). Mike Birbiglia’s stuff is like that too.

I first discovered the concept of slow comedy while taking a level 3 class at the Upright Citizen’s Brigade Theater in New York City nine years ago. My instructor, Michael Delaney, was a long time veteran and one of the strongest performers at the theater. I desperately wanted to make a good impression in his first class. During one of my first scenes, which took place in a prison, I decided to make my character into a ridiculous prison caricature, threatening to rape my scene partner while sharpening a shiv. I’d even made the threat into a silly song, because I’d decided this prisoner was way into Disney movies. “What a bold character choice!” I thought to myself. A few minutes into the scene Delaney stopped everything and asked me, flat out, who I thought this character I was playing really was, and what he was all about – his name, why he was in prison, his hopes and dreams. I stammered and tried to explain that he was just some angry prisoner who probably also loved The Little Mermaid, but he wasn’t buying it. And right then he went into a speech on improv and comedy that I’ll never forget:

“If you create a world with ridiculous characters, you may discover something funny in your scene. But I believe the stronger decision is to play real, grounded characters that are vulnerable and affected by the world around them. You take your time, perform at the top of your intelligence, and react realistically to what happens. Now, this won’t always lead to a hilarious scene. Sometimes you’ll have a scene that won’t be funny at all. But that doesn’t mean it wasn’t successful. Sometimes you’ve just made some interesting theater. And if that sounds awful, know that the audience will not hate you like they will if you try to force something funny on them and it falls flat.”

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Isolated and Under-Exposed: Why the Rich Don’t Give — The Atlantic Cities

…as a share of their income, the richest people in the U.S. are giving at a significantly lower rate than the less affluent.

The study looked at tax returns for people with reported earnings of $50,000 or more from the year 2008 – the most recent year for which data was available. The report found that for people earning between $50,000 and $75,000, an average of 7.6 percent of discretionary income was donated to charity. For those earning $200,000 or more, just 4.2 percent of discretionary income was donated.

Turns out lower giving among the rich likely has much more to do with where they live and who they live near.

As this accompanying article from the journal notes, when the rich are highly concentrated in wealthy enclaves, they’re less likely to give as compared with the rich living in more economically diverse neighborhoods. The report found that in neighborhoods where more than 40 percent of taxpayers reported earning $200,000 or more, the average giving was just 2.8 percent of discretionary income.

In other words, concentration of wealth is also isolation from the less fortunate.

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Imagine: The Music of the Universe — Duke Divinity Call and Response

I’m just finishing A Swiftly Tilting Planet with the girls. Not one of Madeleine L’Engle’s best, but I love her descriptions of the “music of the spheres” — the ways the heavens sing of the glory of God. Turns out there’s something to that:

A recent Spark story in News & Ideas is about an astronomer who studies black holes. With a bit of techno-engineering he found that the sound of a star dying is approximately a D-sharp. How delightfully geeky and wondrous.

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Is God Good… All the Time? — Andrew Kukla

Andrew is a friend from seminary who has a way of drilling down on the big questions I’m thinking about too. Here he takes on the “God is good… all the time… all the time… God is good” call and response:

Do I think that God isn’t good?  Not exactly… it’s never that clear and straightforward for me.   I don’t think God is evil, or amoral, or capricious (well… there are moments).  It’s just that the statement “God is good all the time” is the kind of statement made of the God that died for me back [during a difficult stint as a hospital chaplain among the poor of Atlanta].  I had to kill that God… strung that God up on the cross and nailed the hands and feet and pronounced God dead.  Here is the wonderful thing that occurred to me because of that experience.  When I killed the God of my own creation, the God that fit my categories (like goodness), when I killed that god the God that really is – a God of mystery and wonder and grace and life and love – was resurrected, came alive to me in ways I had not previously experienced.  To borrow from Joseph Campbell I had begun to worship the mask of God created by my theology and thoughts and (most problematic) my needs rather than the God that lay beyond the mask.

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I Believe in God. I Don’t Believe in God — Guardian

This:

In a celebrated essay on Russian literature, Isaiah Berlin famously borrowed a quotation from the Greek poet Archilochus to distinguish two very different sorts of thinkers: “The fox knows many things, but the hedgehog knows one big thing.” The fox, like Berlin himself, can commit to a plurality of values, even when they are incommensurable.

The hedgehog wants to subsume all reality under a single idea or principle. Speaking for myself, I fear hedgehogs, whatever the brand of reality they want to sign up to. Yet hedgehogs, and certainly clever ones, are well defended by their consistency. By contrast, foxes are in the awkward and vulnerable position of contradicting themselves. I love the church. I hate the church. I believe in God. I don’t believe in God. I do it all the time. And I am totally unrepentant. It seems to me that one of the marks of sanity is that one can live with contradiction.

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Creationism is Not Appropriate for Children — Bill Nye (video)

The Science Guy makes it plain:

And I say to the grownups, if you want to deny evolution and live in your world, in your world that’s completely inconsistent with everything we observe in the universe, that’s fine, but don’t make your kids do it because we need them. We need scientifically literate voters and taxpayers for the future. We need people that can—we need engineers that can build stuff, solve problems.

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Off to eat great food, hike some mountains, and sit in a hot tub. Etc. See you next week…

5 thoughts on “Friday Link Love: How Creativity Happens, Generosity, Musical Black Holes and More

  1. Liz GB

    Ok, so I avoided the live frog and instead dove into your links. But my soul feels a little more fed and ready to tackle the frogs hopping around my office. Thank you, thank you! Especially for the “God is good…all the time” post (loved the part about our personal agendas–that struck my ego) and the Bill Nye video; “we need scientifically literate tax payers and voters.” Amen.

    Reply
  2. akukla

    Thanks for the link love, particularly to get put in almost the same breath as the Guardian article which, as it turns out, I LOVE (I know that probably doesn’t surprise you at all). It would also have been a good reference to my post today about being a hypocrite but I forgot about it.. and there really is such good stuff out there and so much more I always wish to say than attention span to say it with and to. Thanks for these links among the many others you find for us!

    Reply
  3. bookgirl

    A Swiftly Tilting Planet not one of L’Engle’s best? I’m curious about that. I love it, myself, but I’m not even a little bit objective when it comes to L’Engle. –Wendy

    Reply
    1. MaryAnn

      I just found the whole thing with the names very convoluted, and even (don’t hate me!) a little hokey.

      I loved Wind in the Door and Many Waters though.

      Reply

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