Last week the Irish poet laureate and Nobel Prize winner Seamus Heaney passed away, and many of us (Irish, Irish descendants, travelers, lovers of the written word, human beings etc…) were drawn to celebrate the life of this man and his remarkable craft by savouring and remembering some of his poetry which embodies so much of the harshness and beauty of life. For quite some time now one of my favorite Heaney poems has been “Digging”, a powerful autobiographical poem to which I always return. On the surface it looks to be largely about farming and writing; however, as always with poetry, one must dig deeper.
Upon hearing the news of Heaney’s death, I, like many others, was also embarking on pre-course activity and thinking about my creative style and possible projects for Creativity, Innovation and Change, so Heaney’s poem became excellent food for thought and led me to a brief reflection about the connection between”Digging” and the process of discovering one’s creativity. So in this post, I would like to share the following insights which may help in digging our way through this process.
(Although you may not be a fan of poetry, I ask you to bear with me and encourage you to either listen to/watch “Digging” or read it/listen to it depending on your preference. They are both linked here and are both quite brief:)
Dig Deep and Get Dirty
Those of us who are embarking on this course as either Adventurers or Explorers, are asked to think about the CIC principles of CENTER, Creative Diversity, and Intelligent Fast Failure in our lives. At first glance, this appears to be a relatively simple process. However, dig deeply and the process can get a bit dirty! For example, after posting her Life Ring in Google plus fellow quadblogger and courserian Felicia Sullivan ponders the following, “I found one of my core areas had too much going on and was unfocused — I had not really thought about it before. ” Digging deeply means being willing to ask the “jugular questions” of ourselves and others which can be disruptive but also life changing. Like Heaney’s father and grandfather, the potato farmers making their way through the muddy bog everyday, “going down and down for the good turf” digging deep and asking the questions is hard work, and it means being relentlessly willing to get dirty perhaps over and over again as we rethink and re-imagine ourselves.
In this course we are also encouraged to find projects that are personally challenging and based on topics that are important to us and perhaps even to our community. Like Heaney who chose to write about something local, something very dear and close to his home and family- potato farming and turf digging, what makes this journey a challenge is to discover the unique and very personal way that we can discover and use our creativity within the community in which we live. Knowing more about our community and our creative style can prove useful in this endeavour and perhaps after digging here and now where we live, we may start to live some of the answers. As long time friend and Feminine Business Leader Sherri L. McLendon points out “Today, 21st century coffee houses evolve as hubs of connection and influence in the local landscape.” I wonder what other places in our community outside of museums and schools are gathering places or hubs of local connection and creativity. Can tapping into that local flavor help us in our journey? How can our unique brand of creativity be celebrated in the service of others in our own community and beyond?
Applying Intelligent Fast Failure in our lives means stepping up to challenges and accepting failure as a part of the creative process. Heaney’s father and grandfather showed tireless perseverance in digging. His grandfather is described as straightening up from his toil to take a to milk break and then immediately heading back out again. We too must head back out again regardless of our failures. As Randy Pausch said in his inspiring Last Lecture , “The brick walls are there for a reason. The brick walls are not there to keep us out. The brick walls are there to give us a chance to show how badly we want something. Because the brick walls are there to stop the people who don’t want it badly enough. They’re there to stop the other people.”
Expand upon Tradition
Where is home? Where do we come from? These are often difficult questions to answer. Pico Iyer speaks eloquently about “Where is home?” in his TED talk (linked in the Idea Cloud for this course), and acknowledges the fact that for him like many of us, he doesn’t come from or live in one tradition or culture and at the same time is drawn to others. However, at the end of his talk he states that regardless of all this moving around, there is an importance to stepping outside of our world to find out what is important to us and at the same time acknowledging a place to stand. In “Digging,” the narrator knowingly says that he is not a man of the spade like his father and grandfather,”I’ve no spade to follow men like them.” However, Heaney did often chose to observe and write about the life and traditions that surrounded him. A part of our creative journey is to acknowledge our roots and yet at the same time to see how our paths branch out from them.
During this process of self discovery, some of us might be able to stand and speak our truth as concisely as Seamus Heaney did at the end of his poem “Digging”:
“Between my finger and my thumb
The squat pen rests.
I’ll dig with it.”
However, I suspect that for many more of us, we will simply have found another piece of our own personal jigsaw puzzle, yet it is always important to remember and celebrate each unique piece as indeed one more that we didn’t have before.