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Divine Guidance or… Where The Muse Really Resides

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gods creativity

I heard a guy interviewed on the radio yesterday.

He said, I don’t know if any of us are actually creative.

I say… BULLSHIT!

Here’s some more of what he said… Steve Engels (Associate Professor of teaching- Computer Science -University of Toronto):

I don’t know if humans are creative sometimes.

I mean it’s the idea of creativity is something, well and I’ve studied is getting inventions or innovations. A lot of things that we create that are new are really inspired by things that we’ve seen before.

Very few people come up with something completely original in a vacuum. And so we find ways of combining and recombining things we’ve seen before and we do it in new and innovative ways. So we try to draw from that in order to come up with something that models human creativity.

But I don’t know. I mean I sometimes think the more we dig into this to try to figure out whether our A.I.’s are being truly creative the more we are questioning whether any of us are actually creative.

He just defined creativity while calling it “not creativity”.

I get where he’s coming from.

For most of us, creativity suggests making something from nothing; God-like lego assembly with no kit or instructions included.

But creativity can’t break the laws of physics any more than I can reject gravity… or banana cream pie.

This is my take.

Reality laws tell me that creativity is taking a million great ideas from every sector, every personal experience, every gender, every religion, every song, every story, every invention….

…. then tossing it all into a blender and whizzing it around like Dorothy’s house cannonading from Kansas to Oz… until a “new” concoction comes frothing up that no one has ever seen before.

Sara Blakely did that.

“I look at any object and try to think of any use it has other than what people had planned for it.”

And then she acted on it. She saw a pair of pantyhose, cut off the feet and created a multi-billion dollar company, Spanx. 

That’s creative, isn’t it?

Spanx men

The most creative of modern musician/songwriters like Brian Wilson and Hank Williams and George Harrison freely admit to consciously or sub-consciously borrowing ideas from other songwriters in their music.

Harrison’s My Sweet Lord has the same chorus melody line as The Chiffons’ He’s So Fine. But it’s not the same song.

When I sit and strive to write a meaningful song with lyrics, melody and harmony that meld together as a coherent whole, I’m not starting from scratch (even though it feels like it!) Oh no…..

I draw on that old Idea Sex where I lay out a recipe card that mashes together my love of country and folk and classical: a teaspoon of Keith Urban, a cup of James Taylor, a pinch of Civil Wars’ guitar work and a dollop of Mary Chapin Carpenter-type imagery.

Paul Simon, Tommy Emmanuelle, Eric Clapton, Valdy and Lady Antebellum are all crowded around peering over my shoulder too, pointing a finger here and there as guidance.

Even Bach, Beethoven and Mozart didn’t create something from nothing. They thought they were receiving divine inspiration from above, but really it was their peers and ghosts of the past that silently infiltrated their writing quills.

They were inspired and molded by a profusion of others’ “creativity”.

In turn they inspired dozens of generations afterwards.

I recently finished a book titled “How To Fly A Horse“, by Kevin Ashton. Ashton relates that all creative ideas are built on the shoulders of hundreds and hundreds of generations of talented, motivated, creative people. Each generation adds more blocks to the structure of art and architecture and every other field of progress.

Steve Jobs didn’t wake up one day from a halcyon dream and decide out of nowhere about designing the iPhone.

It took millennia for thousands of engineers and inventors and dreamers to bring us to the magical moment where Jobs could creatively piece together something that has revolutionized and altered our world tremendously.

Funny-Iphone-02

Creativity is really about taking a whole bunch of lego sets and instead of building the structure pictured on the outside of the box, we use our childlike imagination and life’s experiences to make a new construct that no one else has envisioned in its totality.

Creativity is hard work. Exhaustingly hard.

Inspiration is only the start line and the end result lies a sweaty-hard one hundred metres down the track… sometimes 42.2 kilometres. Not everyone who lines up in the blocks makes it to the finish line.

But those who don’t put in the effort and time to try (yes YODA, there IS try…) will never triumph.

God doesn’t pick a favourite football team to win and the Muse picks no favourites to be creative.

She sits in her beach chair waiting patiently at the finish line, sipping chilly Pinot Gris, cheering and begging us forward but never lending a hand to draw us the last few metres.

It’s inside of us.

That’s what divine creative guidance is all about Charlie Brown.

Julie Moss Ironman

Julie Moss crawls across Ironman finish line in 1982…

 

 

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Cake Therapy With CNN

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I am a CNN fan boy.

A few years ago, I’d catch the occasional minute or two of Wolf or Brianna or Anderson. On Blitzer… On Keilar… On Cooper… 

It was passerby TV viewing. Ho hum… take in a moment of toothy-grinned Obama speaking to the camera and merrily continue on with MY day.

ROUTINE World. Happy World.

Sadly today, I’m a full-fledged CNN addict.

They handcuffed my inner liberal bias and are holding me hostage. I’m in their grip and I can’t let go. HELP!!

I feel dirty.

Thanks Donald.

NON-ROUTINE World. Sad World.

In the old world, it used to be that “polite” Canadians genially crossed paths and discussed the changing weather patterns. Gonna be a hot one today eh Ginger Snap?…

Today, the passing eye-rolls of interchange revolve more and more around what shovelful (dump truck!) of nonsense hit Twitter overnight. OMG, Can you believe that sh*t?…

500+ days back, when the U.S. election results were shockingly finalized, I predicted we’d do a throwback to the Dark Ages for a few years.

But it’s become even darker than I could have pie-in-the-sky imagined.

It’s like the 50 Shades phenomenon a couple of years back. A huge portion of the population was swept into a surreal madness of worship of a man who merrily abuses and proudly dominates women.

My understanding sense was senseless. I didn’t/don’t get it.

Trump 50 shades.jpg

And now there’s this insanity sweeping a whole nation, a nation that has been a world power, the beacon of hope and possibility for a peaceful and tolerantly accepting world for 100 years.

Sure, every story has its dark sides and America has held a few snotty handkerchiefs in its back pocket, thanks in part to slavery and misogyny and treachery. Nobody’s perfect…

…oh yeah… cake. Don’t forget the cake.

I always buy too many bananas at my local Superstore.

It began as an accidental overbuy when I’d purchase a 6 banana bunch (… daylight come and me wanna go home…) and then always find myself with 2 or 3 extras at the end of the week when we’d head off again and buy 6 more bananas.

Wash. Rinse. Repeat… Buy. Blacken. Buy Again.

Maybe it’s an OCD thing. Maybe it’s a “don’t carry out the same action and expect different results” scenario.

Where was I going? oh yeah… cake.

I love banana chocolate chip cake (I love lots of cakes… almost any cake in fact).

Banana Chocolate Chip cake.jpg

The deliciously smooth moistness and combination of banana and chocolate builds a delectable ambrosia effect that piggybacks on my love of peanut butter and banana sandwiches.

It’s a relatively healthy addiction, unlike my desire to smoke one Cuban cigar per week during the gorgeously sunny summer months.

And it doesn’t involve me spying through my neighbour’s window while they’re having sex…. EWwwwwwww! See? Healthy!

Building a banana chocolate chip cake is my sugar-drenched passport, my freedom to exclude the gluten free, superfood, and paleo folks who buffet me with their winds from all sides almost every day.

Take this!… eggs… and this!... white flour…. and THAT! chocolate…

So almost once weekly, I turn up the volume to CNN and gorge on the fetid faeces that emanate from the cake-hole of the TRUMPster whilst mixing flour and eggs and brown-black bananas and sugar … baking a yummy sweet cake for MY cake-hole.

Soothing with food.

My mind wanders in loop-de-loo circles and twists… why would Butch and Sundance think they could ever shoot their way out of that little Bolivian town?… I miss watching my young kidlets at their end-of-the-year ballet concerts… will the fear be greater in my head or my stomach when I dive out of an airplane in the next couple of weeks? I hope the spy couple who escaped back to Russia in the TV show The Americans, will get to see their children again in their lifetime.

Butch and sundance.jpg

Weird random thoughts.

But anything to escape the CNN-Trump vortex for a few blessed minutes.

It’s a perplexing thing where I hate the impulse to watch Trump as he clumsily – spitefully – maliciously – twists and batters our 3rd rock world towards an unhappy ending.

Baking a cake is an antibody vest I can wear (and eat!) to protect myself against the nastiness and darkness coming from the south-of-Canada kingdom. It makes the world feel normal again somehow.

As written in DESIDERATA, I have to accept that there are some things I can’t change in the world.

It’s OK for me to be narcissistic in my own space, show up and focus on getting better in my own world today and not fret about the future.

We can’t always magically succeed. But we can get better.

My banana chocolate chip cake can always be better too, but it does take continuous practice. Weekly, in fact!

Oh… and here’s the simple recipe I use to anti-Trumpify myself while watching CNN … You’re Welcome!

LARRY’S BANANA CHOCOLATE CHIP CAKE

INGREDIENTS

1/2 cup butter, melted

1 cup white sugar

2 eggs

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup sour cream (low fat works fine)

3/4 cup chocolate chips

2 ripe, medium bananas, sliced or mushed.

PREPARATION

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Grease a 9×5 inch loaf or 8 inch cake pan.

In a large bowl, stir together the melted butter and sugar. Add the eggs and vanilla, mix well.

Combine the flour, baking soda and salt, stir into the butter mixture until smooth. Finally, fold in the sour cream, chocolate chips and bananas. Spread evenly into the prepared pan.

Bake at 350 degrees F (175 degrees C) for 60 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the centre of the loaf comes out clean. Cool loaf in the pan for 10 minutes before removing to a wire rack to cool completely.

EXERCISE!…

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comes in lots of forms

… they all hurt until they feel great.

 

exercise.png

  • Writing this blog exercises my writing mind, pushing me to be as clear in my communication as possible.

I spend a good deal of time writing, rewriting, editing and re-editing these posts to make them as understandable and relevant as I can manage (you may think I fail terribly… oh well!).

It’s frustrating and sometimes hurts my head trying to finding new ideas and new approaches that fulfill my needs while also hopefully finding a message that occasionally intrigues you.

A satisfying payoff comes every 4 or 5 blog posts when I hit on a thought, maybe a metaphor or a way of thinking that sends a chill of thrill up my spine.

It’s like finding a hidden cinnamon bun in the freezer and no one is around to catch you eating it… 0 calories!!

  • Playing and practicing my guitar exercises a part of my brain that requires coordination and memory and nuance of tone, timing, and volume.

I rehearse and practice songs over and over, trying out different keys and styles of approach (is this better in country format, jazzy, or slow and soulful?).

Jackson Browne would sit at his piano practicing a song, or even just one line of a song for hours until he hit on just the right sound he wanted. I think the best musicians follow a similar pattern to Browne’s.

Tonight I’ll sing his song THESE DAYS at an Open Mic with my own interpretation that I’ve practiced over and over.

The hurt heals to delicious pleasure.

Jackson brown piano.jpg

  • Investing exercises another part of my brain.

It’s the numbers part, the analytical and decision-making areas that weigh and decipher and calculate risk vs reward.

There’s a large set of reality-based and psychological components that need assessment and a steady mindset to produce a High-5 satisfactory return on dollars invested.

The level-headedness required to persevere when bad stuff happens to good investments is challenging, but ultimately rewarding when good analysis turns into good returns.

  • Running and other physical activities like spin class, yoga, and boot camp exercise my body.

Physical exertion forces large volumes of oxygen-rich blood to the areas where it’s needed to perform and work hard.

I try to work myself hard for at least a small amount of time each day… sometimes as little as 20 minutes with high intensity stuff. Half marathon training can consume a 2 hour period for long runs in preparation for a race.

I don’t mind if my body screams and hurts a little. Sorry to disagree with the “experts”, but sometimes… a little pain does produce gains.

The best showers are the ones that rinse away a ton of salty sweat.

sweaty guy

Exercise of all kinds comes down to habit and focus. Yes?

Self- discipline. Yes?

We all know that exercise in all forms is important in our lives.

Wrong… MOST of us know.

Here’s what Donald Trump thinks about exercise.

In a book (Trump Revealed) by the Washington Post’s Mike Kranisch and Marc Fisher:

After college, after Trump mostly gave up his personal athletic interests, he came to view time spent playing sports as time wasted. Trump believed the human body was like a battery, with a finite amount of energy, which exercise only depleted. So he didn’t work out. When he learned that John O’Donnell, one of his top casino executives, was training for an Ironman triathlon, he admonished him, “You are going to die young because of this.”

And, like all things TRUMP, I disagree. Every reputable scientific study disagrees… but there I go off on an unfocused tangent. Bad Larry. Yes, I digress.

Exercise is about habit and focus and self-discipline. But we also know that exercise is usually hard, a challenge to body, mind and soul.

Sometimes to pocketbook. OUCH!

For me in my life the hardest exercise is the creative process.

creativity ocean

 

Being creative exercises my sub-conscious mind and my powers of observation and interpretation and Idea Sex.

I can procrastinate my life away when I become lazy and try to avoid the creative process that I both love and hate.

I love the end result. I hate the process that takes me there.

We went to see the movie DEADPOOL 2 this week. WTF, Another tangent?

It’s the kind of movie you either love or hate.

It’s the 21st century equivalent of those 80’s and 90’s movies like AIRPLANE! or NAKED GUN… a bit of silly slapstick, a bit of Monty Python, buckets of blood and comic “violence”, even a kiss of romance.

But OMG, its approach to the superhero genre is so irreverently abrasive and inventive and original and CREATIVE.

I am in awe of the thought process (plus the multi-millions of dollars spent in its production) and independent manner that led screenwriters down this path.

I must have had some exercise in watching the show because my laughter muscles hurt afterwards.

Laughter can be THE best exercise, right? Shower time!

deadpool 2.jpg

 

A Masterpiece… Am I Ready?

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Okanagan Lake.jpg

Ommmmmmmmmmm…..

When we take a deep yoga breath and open our eyes and senses to the world around us we can see the universe as a beautiful painting. The breezes flow like fairy sprites across the canvas blending colour and texture.

To truly appreciate an exquisite piece of art, we first have to stand back and absorb the totality before we hone in on the minuscule fine points that, brought together, produce a masterpiece.

Masterpieces are created one step, one brush stroke at a time, in the same way that a war is looked back upon as a series of battles that produced a final outcome. OK, maybe that’s not a pretty comparison, but you get the point.

Bob Ross painting.jpg

Life is made from science but is best appreciated as art…

In a few weeks I’ll become a granddad for the first time.

My baby is having a baby. I’m not sure I’m ready.

Am I ready?

I always ask myself, “Am I ready?

I’ll tell you my answer at the end of this.

Soon, a small genetic piece of me will usher himself into the world and hopefully live for 100 or more years as a fractional portion of my proof of existence.

He’ll grow and laugh and cry, living his life one heartbeat, one day at a time just like I have, just like my mother, my grandfathers and great-grandmothers did.

This isn’t light stuff. This comes down to the meaning of life and weighty philosophical thoughts.

Granddad. It’s a title that I can’t quite grasp.

grandfather painting

In reality, for my entire life, I’ve struggled with titles of all kinds … paperboy, burger flipper, laboratory technologist, husband, father, brother, gardener, hockey player, writer, triathlete, musician, tutor, cook, bartender, the list goes on and on.

Every time a new title presents itself I’ve sat and asked myself, “Am I ready?

I’ve shivered and trembled and worried. My first niece was born when I was 11. I shivered. I married when I was  24 years old. I trembled. My first child was born when I was 26. I worried.

My first grandchild will be born when I’m 60. I shiver and tremble and worry. The beautiful masterpiece, the fine details and curlicues of a perfect life might turn into tangles and knots. But that’s short-lived worry that is really a mirage.

I know it’s insecurity that makes me think this way. I know it has to do with self-esteem and confidence. Am I ready?

It’s silly really because we all find ourselves “titled” every day by the roles we play, the things we do.

Not one of these titles has sat well on me because they’ve all been challenges that defined me and encased me in shoes of concrete. I am this. Or I am that. To be or not to be… and most importantly… can I do it?

These titles in some way – and in my interpretation – suggest that I must have some sort of expertise that I feel uncomfortable claiming.

Yes, I am a musician… well actually I play a bit of guitar and sing but Sir Paul is truly a musician, not me.”

Sure, technically I’m your father, but I don’t bring all the wisdom and wonder to the role the way Atticus Finch did in To Kill A Mockingbird, or Charles Ingalls on Little House On The Prairie. Now those men were Dad’s.”

atticus finch.jpg

For many years I struggled with the sense of inferiority that often held me back through fear of failure. If I aim for this “title” and don’t quite make it, well, people will look down on me as a total failure.

The good news is that while in my 50’s, the fear of failure and insecurities that held hands with that fear slowly melted away like the globally-warmed ice glaciers in Alaska…

Titles don’t have the power to shape my view of myself the way they once did.

I don’t like failure any more than I ever have, but I accept that bastard failure as part of the process that carries me forward and gives me great satisfaction when I do overcome an obstacle.

And truthfully, I haven’t cleared every obstacle.

I took violin lessons for 4 years. I practiced and practiced. My family suffered the earfuls of pain. I never could coax a beautiful sound from that fiddle. Honestly, I sucked. OK, so violinist isn’t a title I hold; I’m good with that because I made a valiant attempt at learning. I grew in the process of sounding bad.

Today, although they still sound a bit foreign in my head, I’ve come to view titles as honours, accolades, recognition of what I’ve accomplished. Titles don’t define me, but they reflect the journey I’ve taken, the rivers I’ve crossed: some quiet babbling streams, some raging torrents.

Or in the case of the title Grandpa, a recognition of how far my children have come, an indirect reflection of the painting I began years ago when I was an intern in life (I’m still an intern).

Which brings me back around to the question I posed earlier… Am I ready?

I regret that I was never able to make a connection to any of my own grandparents as they were already gone or nearing their end when I arrived – the curse of being born to elder parents.

Now here I have an opportunity, a once-in-a-lifetime chance to carve out a connection as a grandparent.

It’s a title that requires nothing more of me than a loving presence.

There is excitement and newness in the beginning of a life, the anticipation of what-will-be. The joys and the worries.

OK…

My paintbrushes are cleaned and set to dab on the unvarnished canvas that awaits a brand new masterpiece.

Put me in Coach! I am ready.

……………………

And the cat’s in the cradle and the silver spoon
Little boy blue and the man in the moon…