"The supreme principle, both in politics and in private life, should be to promote all that is creative, and so to diminish the impulses and desires that centre around possession."
- Bertrand Russell
I'm not sure what impulse led me to pull Mr Russell's book off the shelf at the library, but it was this quotation on the back cover that made me bring him home. The timing was almost too perfect. I'd just finished watching an interesting little documentary, The Story of Stuff. It was one of those things that makes you want to slap your forehead and cry, "But of course!" when you encounter something that's so true to you, but you haven't quite been able to get your head around.
Mr Russell is like that too. I've often thought about these things - the value of creativity, the irritating and until now couldn't-quite-put-my-finger-on-it way that advertising strokes our insecurities, the stupidity of war, the stupidity of men at war, the stupidity of men, and the resulting stupidity of women - but I haven't been able to organise my various strands of thought as Mr Russell has. He does it so well. (I should warn you, if you're planning to dig in to one of his books, that he uses a lot of big words and large solid paragraphs, and there is not much dialogue and "things in inverted commas" to lubricate the reading journey and make it easier).
This one sentence of his inspired me to start reading Why Men Fight, and inside the book I keep finding many more such sentences - each sentence speaks volumes!
When I look at this sentence in particular, it reminds me of something that had got my knickers in a twist a few years ago. It was after I started therapy for healing from my experiences of childhood sexual abuse, and I'd begun to realise something. A lot of my therapist's "prescriptions"* for healing were linked to creativity: Read a book. Sing. Draw. Exercise. Listen to music. Breathe. Dance. Get close to nature. Make. Laugh. Believe.
And it struck me, these things that were so healing for a wounded adult, were all the same things that were given so little importance in school. Sports. Choir. Playtime. Art. Craft. Games. Poetry. Moral Science. Needlework. Literature. These were the subjects that only mattered a bit more if they had the potential to bring in trophies. But if there extra classes, or exams to prepare for, these were the things that were dumped to the side so that we could be better schooled to get better marks.
We thought - and I assume most people still do - that school was preparing us for life, for "the real world"* we'd have to face once we were grown-ups. For some years now, I've been thinking that school failed us. Not any one school, not my school in particular, just school in general - the traditional method of schooling that's focussed on competition and percentages.
They taught us all this stuff and we went out into the world and we live and we love, we work and drink and try and think, we save not enough and we drive too fast and when the world starts to sicken us it's not the sciences or theories or historical dates that save us. It's the stuff we were told wasn't that important.
If only our schooling had taken what kindergarten started with, and expanded on that. How different would the world be? I sometimes like to imagine that in some alternate universe, Adolph Hitler drew and painted and it was enough and he lived happily ever after and let everyone else do so too. Why not in our universe? It's too late for Hitler, but what about the rest of us, and the children to come? Are we going to squash that most holy of gifts - to create - and turn these magical beings into people who never think they're good enough, who who need a bigger car or a smaller butt, a new job and nothing old?
That one little sentence at the top of this post: it spoke of all these things to me. What did it say to you?
*got the inverted commas there? You're welcome.