— Updated: Possibility & Relentless Creativity

June 17, 2014 at 5:49 am | Posted in Online Ministry | 3 Comments

I concluded several months ago that I was no longer a New UU; hence no reason to continue this blog. Plus, there’s the part about feeling as if I failed to attract enough enthusiasm for digital ministry to warrant a continued discussion – despite the fact that all warnings about Facebook have continued to be proven true. It’s free and more and more UUs employ it for some form of digital church and faith life.

Last time I’ll say this: Facebook is anything but alternative culture. The spaces we inhabit influence greatly our activities, our perceptions and our unconscious acts. Activity online directly impacts how we treat each other offline. It shapes our perceptions and expectations with everything and everyone we interact with offline. Meanwhile, the latest privacy transgressions that Facebook is planning confirm what I have said about Facebook timelines and other tools. 

Now, I’m a new at dealing with another reality of UUism – I’ve joined the ranks of those who identify as UU but don’t go to church. I’m struggling to hold on to devotional practices that reinforce my beliefs. One of them requires constant effort to live in boundless possibility and relentless creativity, something I suspect may be difficult for many, including UUs despite our principles and beliefs.

I’ve coined this phrase “boundless possibility and relentless creativity” after reading the book, Letters to a Young Artist: Straight-Up Advice on Making a Life in the Arts For Actors, Performers, Writers and Artists of Every Kind, by Anna Deavere Smith. This book, plus The First 90 Days: Proven Strategies for Getting Up to Speed Faster, by Michael D. Watkins, are the two best sources of advice I’ve come across in 30 years for starting any new adventure in my life that involves a system in which people collaborate.

I believe everyone has an artist in side of them. Artists personify creativity. I believe that life is the embodiment of creativity. An artist sensibility permeates everything we do if we let it. And herein lies the source of my practice of striving for boundless possibility and relentless creativity.

To paraphrase Maya Angelou: Creativity begets creativity exponentially. You can’t run out of it if you use it.

I tweeted about this a week ago. A follower’s comment challenged me to explain because I said that boundless possibility and relentless creativity protects personal boundaries. If you think about this, what I tweeted sounded like a contradiction.

It takes discipline, a well-developed sense of oneself; and a belief that authentic creativity happens – but not at the expense of others or oneself. It is the opposite of doing business; of power-plays in personal relationships; of manipulation. And it is the lack of manipulation that is misunderstood by many people because humans naturally gravitate and use manipulation in various forms to experience many aspects of life.

When personal boundaries are crossed, it means some form of manipulation or acquiescence is present or is a motivating factor.  Boundlessness to me, is less about boundaries and more about the inexhaustible. It’s an adjective that emphasizes the potential of living daily out of a well-spring of possibility.

As Anna Deavere Smith writes, for some, the practice can be twisted into a violation of the boundaries of others and also ones own. She cites an example of agents taking advantage of the rights of performers, who as creative individuals, focus on their craft and not on whether they are being exploited by the business of art or entertainment. The responsibility to prevent and stop this kind of abuse lies with the artist, she writes. It’s about accountability for one’s own possibilities and creativity. I don’t like the motivational phrase, “dwell in possibility,” because it’s passive. What comes of dwelling in possibility? It’s not clear enough for me.

Deavere Smith also discusses the relationship between teachers and students. Teachers open doors and expose wide expanses of possibility to students. Good ministers inspire the same. In turn, students (and church members) may be so giddy by this gift, that they may interpret the rush of feelings as sexual attraction.

The great male masters of painting in our western culture reinforced this notion of muse or model as sexual object. And many contemporary female artist have turned the table on that in their work. But not everyone gets a hard on or lusts after painting a nude of the opposite or same sex. Great creative or intimate collaborations abound throughout history in all forms of art and relationships that sprang from attractions but that weren’t sexual.

I’m very lucky. Heather, my legally wedded spouse, gets it, and in her own way she too strives for the same.  Working with her artist, designer colleagues means a great deal to her. They incorporate forms of play in their daily interactions. I admit, that once and a great while feelings of insecurity arise in me because of her zeal for creative play. Years ago, she went to extraordinary lengths to find enough rooster feathers and zany winged mementos to completely fill her colleague Andrew’s office with goose down. He had a thing for birdies. He opened his door, only to plunge into a gigantic comforter. He waded through to find all the chicken tchoch she bought.

At the time I was traveling constantly. I missed her. And for a sec I wondered whether her display was an indication of something other than good fun. It had been a while since we both conjured up goofy situations to make us giggle. The thought was a projection of my own insecurities.  It was fleeting. Heather kept playing like that with Andrew and others on her team. She produced some of her best work with those colleagues.

Unfortunately, people come and go in our lives because they or others are suspect, jealous or envious of  creative relationships.  Individuals who aspire to live in boundless possibility adapt.  It’s just a blip in the EKG of creativity and the journey continues.



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  1. I was excited to have an email that there was a post since I remembered that you had brought the blog to a close. A few things that I wanted to touch on in this post.

    1) I have experienced the face book emphasis of the UUS and it is a tough one. The instances where I have been in groups that attempt to sustain something else where — it never seems to stick. But it is a challenge thinking how to get people to buy into the shift. I’m active with the UU Media Collaborative group that uses a face book page like you would a message board and admittedly it is a bit odd. Yet given this I was surprised to read that the UU World survey revealed a large percentage of UU’s do not frequent UU related pages or sites online. ????

    2) I have for several years been in that group of non church affiliated self defined off the church grid UUs. I even looked into Church of the Larger Fellowship but I mostly wasn’t involved for medical reasons and finacial- the financial which made getting to the nearest church impractical made paying the basic required for CLF impossible and while I contacted them with questions I never received an answer. And online works like brick and mortar in that your first furtive steps in the door make all the difference even for someone who is a Religious professional as I am and have all the information to want to give it more effort and understand things happen so on and so forth but I was coming as a potential member and feelings don’t work the way we would like sometimes.

    I’ve been hearing good stuff and I think there is a bobbling understanding of how limited dependence on some organizational model from 19th century Protestantism is ultimately limiting and given the breadth of options made possible through modern communications technology failing to explore those options is just irresponsible. But I think there where a couple decades when “Community” was what we made our central mission. I think more accurately we espoused community as our central mission and value and so on. In a strange way the nature of our online activities and organization can help to evaluate just how deeply that community was being established and lived. I think it shows us that we where forging communities but theyr where not individuals united in one body seeking and finding mutual acountability on our spriritual paths. These communities as may be aproproprioate offered people a vital place where we could meaningfully self define ourselves through a vital network off affiliation. We where identifying ourselves by linking to the group whose vision difined the sort of world and ideals we want to see pursued.

    3) Something churches could do to support the effort to begin forging broader contexts for ministry and affiliation would be to reform the snide and judgmental dismissal given to those long characterized as Christmas and Easter UUs. A group which also includes those people and families only seen at funerals and weddings. Throughout the world the catholic church, Buddhist communities, Synagogues and more have understood that those people who are not seeking what church attendance offers but who know that their church is —— and that their religion is —- and that —– is where they will go when someone is getting married or planning the service for a loved one who has died. Hindus definitely have models of religious commitment that accommodate having periods of more intensive and perhaps communal or perhaps solitary religious practice and disciplined reflection and deepening (not sure I like that made up word but you get where I am going)

    4) No need to pursue this but at least draw something from the offer if that helps- but I am open to connecting or imagining the setting needed for the way you are living out your Unitarian Universalist faith and ways you wish to more fully do so. Jesus statement that wherever 2 or more are gathered together he is there has taken on a new possible meaning and teaching as I have encountered the way in which I can live out my UU faith and work i an individual way. But when I share that work with another UU or seek advise or collaborate with one other UU it makes what I am doing feel so different– then it is identified and caught up in the larger movement and I return to that solitary effort with increased vitality and greater confidence. So I guess I am saying keep the faith – know that there are those of us out there ready to get to know someone and form other kinds of faithful bonds and all you need do is post to have it made available.

    • Lots of food for thought here and I appreciate it very much. I need to think about all this. I’m in the throws of a major project and might not get back to you right away. But I am thinking about what you’ve outlined. One thing thought, I don’t know how the survey was structured re: facebook usage among UUs. Unless most UUs are living in caves, then the majority of them likely are on facebook. Meanwhile, from what I can see many UU lay leaders and ministers are — many. So important conversations about the faith go on in facebook, but that’s all it appears to be – conversation. Unless a ministers, RE lead, and lay leaders specifically talk about what the church has on line – regardless of where it is — traffic to those areas will not be maximized. Just because a minister is online in facebook, or with a blog or on twitter doesn’t mean congregants will interact. It takes time over a couple of years to develop meaningful digital ministry.

      • No problem I’ll be here. Hope the new project proves rewarding.

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