Dictionaries define creativity with words like imagination and originality. Valid as these words are, creativity includes another key ingredient: playfulness. I cannot get enough of the creative person who lives out of a responsive willingness to engage in playful experimentation. Playfulness appears in the arts, and can also fuel daily living in a non-product form of creativity.
I had the privilege of hearing one of my favorite poets and children's book writers, Naomi Shihab Nye. Born to a Palestinian father and an American mother, she currently lives in San Antonio, Texas. This woman emanates playfulness. She told the story of driving her teenage son to school and seeing a homemade sign stapled to a telephone post not far from her house. It said something like "Lost Friend. If found, call (270) 889-5793." Completely intrigued, she wondered for days about that sign. Her son accused her of secretly posting it. He said he recognized her style of entertainment to which she confessed that she was honored by his accusation for it was a quiet but brilliant display of creativity, but not her's.
Weeks later at a small gathering over wine, she learned that a woman had posted this sign as part of a creativity group's "assignment." As a life-long teacher, my heart's antennae bend and quiver toward the idea of a creativity assignment. I encourage people to give themselves assignments regularly for who can better teach a spirited woman than the wise teacher within her?
One of my all time favorite lines in poetry has this feel of a creative assignment and it comes from the playful Sufi mystic, Hafiz. He asks of the divine, "what love-mischief can we do for the world today?" This is the kind of assignment that smacks of playful creativity.
With spring flowers still blooming, I think of that lovely May Day tradition where children make paper baskets, stuff them with flowers, lay them before the door of an unsuspecting neighbor, ring the doorbell, then fly to a bush or a corner offering a secret place to observe. I can still feel the laughter in my stomach as I watched old Sally Hill, a retired school teacher open her door, bend her head of soft white hair, and cluck her joy at finding my colorful gift at her feet.
Children may be our best teachers of playful creativity. Jesus spoke of becoming like little children as a way to see heaven. I suspect that a way to taste heaven here on earth is through creative play. One of the best features of this stream of creativity is that it does not depend on skills, wealth, or any medium of the arts. This spontaneous form of creativity requires only that we be expectant and willing to act on playful impulse. May you, spirited women, have laughter in your stomach as you carry out assignments you give yourselves to play creatively.
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