Wednesday, May 23, 2007

That Creativity Thing

I told Charity that chapter four in The Suburban Christian could supply a month of posts. Which is to say, "Material World: the Challenges of Consumer Culture" gives us a lot to consider.

Hsu asserts, "While the single-family home is symbolic of American individualism and frontier independence, ironically, its very location in an atomized suburban context makes us ever more dependent on commodities and consumption." (p.75)

In other words, suburbanites don't do much for themselves, except slide the credit card.

When this is our approach to life, we are engaged in "financial transactions rather than exchanges of mutual relationships." (p.77) Hsu discusses the consequent adverse effects, including a system which can more easily abuse workers across the globe. But it struck me that we also suffer in this setup.

We suffer a loss of connection, to people and the meaning of work. We suffer with a diminished sense of our own purpose. (Thus being highly attracted to books that offer a purpose-driven life.) We suffer from lack of volition and creativity.

That's why I was especially glad to see that one of Hsu's solutions was a return to creativity— make instead of buy, be relational. I picture this as the difference between going to a movie and making one's own. (I've even provided an example below. This is a "slide show" movie that my kids made to entertain themselves yesterday. I think it beats Barney any day. Of course, I'm biased.)

In the past few years, I've begun to reclaim my creativity in myriad ways. Sure, I don't get as much exercise by sliding my credit card, but that's a challenge I'll accept any day.

THE PLAN, by Sara and Sonia. (I had nothing to do with this.)

The Plan 1

The Plan 2

The Plan 4

The Plan 5

The Plan 6

The Plan 7

The Plan 8

The Plan 9

The Plan 10

The Plan 11

Seedlings Invitation: If you write a post related to this post and Link It Back Here, let me know and I'll link to yours.


Miriam's daughter's Script Submission

Al's Consumer Culture vs. Christian Creativity

Charity's Created to Consume?

Mary's The Post that Stirred Me

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Blogger Miriam said... - that slideshow is the cutest thing I've seen in a long time. I'm still laughing at the teddy in the air photo. I can see your girls have gotten your wonderfully creative genes. :) I can't wait to show this to my kids tomorrow. *warm smiles*

12:16 AM  
Blogger 23 degrees said...

No way! This"slideshow" follows EXACTLY what Craver and I did today. (Craver is the fuzzy one.)

Picasso said "All children are artists. The problem is how to remain an artist once he grows up."

Commenting on losing connection to people and meaning of work: I wonder if we lose the connection partly because we remove ourselves from true creativity: faith, dependence on making something out of nothing.

We spend our lives searching for miracles but constantly remove ourselves from the context in which they happen. (Erwin McManus)

Thanks for making me think, Laura.

12:56 AM  
Blogger Inihtar said...

That slideshow is great! It brought back memories of a book I had while growing up about a stuffed rabbit lost by his owner who has all kinds of adventures! Your kids have professional potential!!

I agree about the return to creativity. But while some kinds of creativity build relationships, other do foster solitude--and not always in a bad way? I just remember, I used to stitch and make bead bracelets, and part of the reason I started doing those was because I could lose myself in them, and escape from the world around me.

3:29 AM  
Blogger Greg said...

Thanks. Hsu makes a good point. Western financial clout can often leave others oppressed and it is important to be careful how we do business in a world of exchange that we don't tend to read very well.

Your "we suffer's" are sooo poignantly true it hurts. Creative, imaginative, improvisational communities may bring some healing and new ways of relating to each other and the world we live in.

And many thanks for sharing the girls' wonderful expression of creativity. Glad to hear you're reclaiming yours in a variety of ways.

6:14 AM  
Blogger relevantgirl said...

I linked to your post and wrote a post of my own as well. Here's mine:

Thanks for these great words and amazing pictures!

8:27 AM  
Blogger Every Square Inch said...


I'm sure you're extremely proud of your children (as you should be!) To have them express creativity is a credit to your's so much easier to turn them loose to the parental surrogates, Xbox and Nintendo.(not that there's anything wrong with Nintendo)

8:35 AM  
Blogger Andrea said...

Excellent as usual.

However, isn't the credit card (or debit card) swiping not *just* this "suburban" thing? I mean, I know people like this in New York City.

I love how you've combated it with creativity.
I'll be pondering your words.

9:07 AM  
Blogger Andrea said...

Oh, and I'm *sure* you had nothing to do with the slideshow. We know what you like to do in your free time.Tee hee.

9:08 AM  
Blogger Heather said...

I need to read this book!

11:13 AM  
Blogger Craver Vii said...

Just listening for my name.

That book (The Suburban Christian) came up again at my job today. We were in a department meeting discussing some thing about pursuing a lifestyle of limits, not luxury.

2:16 PM  
Blogger L.L. Barkat said...

Miriam... thanks. I was pretty delighted with it. I hope your kids like it too!

23... See, my kids are also private detectives. Watch out. I like that Picasso thought and I agree. It is worth asking what processes conspire to push us into a creative desert.

Inihtar... yes, I hope they'll use this talent to make the world a brighter place! As far as creativity cultivating solitude, it certainly can. My writing does that. But, in the end, it comes 'round to relationship as I interact with people over what I've written.

Greg... is there any way it seems to be hurting in your life?

Relevant... I enjoyed your post! Thanks for the link.

Every... it does make for a pretty messy house sometimes though. (So, it's less about being someone who gives them "creative experiences" and more about being someone who gives them space and grace.)

Andrea... oh, so you know my secrets! But in this case, they did it without my knowledge. As for the credit card issue, yes, I believe it is more than a suburban phenomenon.

Heather... because?

Craver... well, 23 is saying your name up above, and he's suggesting you're a bit fuzzy. Then again, that makes him the long-haired red-head. As for the lifetime of limits, any thoughts on what makes this appealing or needful? Do limits really limit?

2:42 PM  
Blogger Mark Goodyear said...

Al's comments on consuming remind me of something I read on Out of Ur last year.

The godly model for consumption is communion. The Lord's Supper. The Lord's Table. The Eucharist.

It's not so much that I shouldn't be a consumer, but I need to remember how to consume in a way that glorifies God.

But personally, I just find creativity a lot more rewarding--and usually a lot more fun.

I loved the slideshow by the way. The seesaw picture made me laugh.

3:18 PM  
Blogger Kim said...


I hate to pick on our American culture, but hey, if the shoe fits...

Our culture highly values individualism, self-sufficiency, independence, self-reliance, the "self-made man," etc. and de-values support, dependence, help, questions, emotions, etc.. This value system thwarts the very idea that humankind needs a Savior.

Whatever we can aspire to that connects us one to another, that intertwines our hearts and our destinies will be valuable in that it will set a precedence for our connecting ourselves to Christ and intertwining our hearts and destinies with His.

Peace, Kim

3:18 PM  
Blogger Craver Vii said...

A lifestyle of limits is about being a good steward. Funny thing... when we're thrifty (restricting ourselves) we are less likely to be restricted by others. Plus, it allows access to more ministry opportunities. Ironically, there can be a liberating outcome from applying limits.

3:58 PM  
Blogger spaghettipie said...

LL - Great thoughts, and I love how you linked creativity and consumerism. The book I just finished by Dick Staub says something to the effect of (I loaned it out, so I don't have it to quote directly) - we were designed to create, not just consume. God is a creative God; it's one of the first characteristics we see of Him in the Bible...and we are created in His image. I agree with Mark, it's not that it's wrong to consume, but we're not meant to only consume.

4:04 PM  
Blogger Ted Gossard said...

Wow, L.L. Nice slide show from your children!

Yes, I think our lifestyles are more about self-enjoyment and self-fulfillment than in the past, and are self-centered. Everyone can do what THEY like doing apart from anyone and everyone else.

Whereas it would be better to be communal starting at home and into the neighborhood. But that's a tough one since others will more than likely be in their own separate worlds.

But we should not despise what WE can do and attempt to do. We should try to do better.

5:53 PM  
Blogger Greg said...

Good quietion in your response to comments. Yes, I often have a sense of wandering in the wilderness in a disconnected way. The faithfulness of God leads me forward, sometimes an inch at a time, and living in community also helps with cups of refreshing water that offer reconnection with the truth that I'm not in the wilderness alone.

4:18 AM  
Blogger Al Hsu said...

I like Mark's thought on communion being the godly model for consumption. I'd also note that Eucharist is meant to be a corporate, communal partaking, not an individualistic act of consumption. There's a lot there that we could tease out - the act of breaking bread together, table fellowship, hospitality, welcome of others, all of those are countercultural practices in our consumer culture.

On the one hand, consumption is largely inescapable, and we do our best to try to find ways to consume more Christianly. On the other hand, we can practice countercultural activities like creativity, simplicity and generosity, and that helps to free us from consumer trappings.

4:39 PM  
Blogger Charity Singleton said...

LL -- I'm sorry to enter the conversation so late. I had enough trouble just articulating my thoughts for my post. (By the way, I finally added links once I got home this evening. I was nearly late to work this morning trying to get the darn thing up!)

You seem to foster a lifestyle of creativity that I am trying to create here in my home. I love that your children have so much freedom to create, but that you do as well. The thing about being consumers that also produce is that it's a much more active lifestyle. Gathering ingredients and materials, doing the work, sharing the outcome. And it's actually much more entertaining to be a producer rather than a consumer. But our American idea of entertainment is all too closely linked with consuming.

And I LOVE the slide show. Oh, how I'd love to hear those fun girls of yours narrate the movie. I can only imagine!

BTW -- I was thinking about your credit card comment and the Compact. How is that going?

5:27 PM  
Blogger L.L. Barkat said...

Mark... I like that communion idea. So, on a practical level, how would we guage whether we are involved in consumption or communion? Take buying ketchup, for example. If I make my own (which I do), am I somehow engaged in communion rather than consumption?

Kim... interesting. In the scene you propose, I wonder which comes first? Do we connect with Christ and this connects us to one another, or the other way round?

Craver... stewardship implies answering to someone else. If we are not being good stewards, what does this imply?

Spaghetti... I like to remember the ants. They are definitely consumers, but they do so in a way that contributes to the eco-system in invaluable ways. So how does our consumption compare?

Ted... thanks, on the slideshow. I loved it myself. I wonder if it isn't almost counter to self to simply consume (as opposed to self-centered, which implies some kind of felt benefit).

Greg... and I think that some of our wilderness experiences are products of a lifestyle that degrades our sense of purpose.

Al... sounds like good grist for a longer work!

Charity... I like how you describe the pleasures of producing, as opposed to simply consuming. It would be fun to put this with Al's ideas and create our own little manifesto. :) The compact? Glad you asked. It's going pretty well. This was the first month we broke it a little. But, all in all, my credit card bills are hundreds of dollars less. (which shocks me, because we really aren't people who spend a lot... yet, we obviously let a lot slip through our fingers when we're not being conscientious). As a result, I've been paying down home and car loans early. What a blessing. And I hope to use the saved interest to eventually practice a little more of that generosity Al keeps talking about.

8:41 PM  
Blogger Christianne said...

I absolutely LOVE the slideshow your girls put together. (And your little disclaimer at the beginning that you had nothing to do with it.) I actually viewed it a few days ago but was rushing out the door and didn't have a chance to comment. But every time I thought about your blog, a little smile would come to my face as I would remember the little flopsy bunny and his adventursome red-haired friend.

Also, congratulations on all the headway you're making financially with your new plan!

8:33 AM  
Blogger Jim said...

A very good post that made me think. The call to creativity made me very interested in reading the book.

8:51 PM  
Blogger L.L. Barkat said...

Christianne... glad you liked the slideshow. I felt it was too good to keep to myself!

Jim... I'm curious...what did it make you think? And is there some creative endeavor you have been wanting to engage in, or are you perhaps just interested in a life that involves more creativity on several levels?

9:12 PM  
Blogger HALFMOM said...

From my "previous" life - I miss the freedom of creativity more than anything else - even having a spouse I think - I miss waking up and thinking what I would do with the day - now it's "what must I do today" and that's a different focus completely -

I love the children's slide show. I showed it to my daughter and asked her if she thought they were trying to escape - and she said, "oh no, they are just going to the yard to play" - and smiled sweetly, thinking back on playing with the animals and playing in the clay mud of KY to make pots and pans and meals...

11:42 AM  
Blogger Ted Gossard said...

L.L., What children do in their pretend or free time is so greatly significant, especially certain times when playing certain roles. Seeing this in your household in a safe place where it is encouraged by "Mom" is really good to see.

I remember scenes my mother preserved for us on camera. On one of them I was preaching away to my two sisters holding their dolls. It's cute, and I look most serious in demeanor. Fact was though, I can STILL remember being upset with Mom for taking that picture then. I have ideas why, especially one closer to the surface at the time. And funny thing is, that's exactly what I ended up doing, and would have done much more if the cards would have been played right! ha.

And those pictures will make these memories living and ongoing for years to come for your children as well as for you and your husband.

12:21 PM  
Blogger Stacey said...

Not gonna lie, I think your children are far more talented that I ever was! I especially liked the last two pics--funny!

2:40 PM  
Blogger The Small Scribbler said...

I love this! Another creative family. Just a few days ago I posted a slide show that my kids put together. I am always amazed when kids come over to visit and they do not know how to imagine or play and want TV and video games instead. Your kids can come over to play anytime!

10:11 AM  
Blogger L.L. Barkat said...

Scribbler... watch out... we're on our way right now, stuffed animals in tow! :)

12:24 PM  

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