In the early noughties we had a family celebration at the Baltic Mill arts centre on Tyneside. It’s a stunning space.
We bought small B. badges. Reminders of an amazing place, but more particularly as a visual prompt that being is more important than doing. Or to put it another way: before we can do well, we need to be.
Steve, my husband of many years, has always been far better at this than me…
I know that being is foundational, but I instinctively measure progress and achievement by what I’m doing. It’s my personality and history. Whilst it hasn’t served me badly, now as I look back I’m not sure it has served me or others well.
We have gone through a huge shift since 2003. Personally and collectively. The way we see and experience the world has altered significantly. The generations coming after us have different values and the language we use reflects this movement.
In my youth the roles you did were defined and you carried that title through life. Teacher, doctor, mother – it reflected what you did. At the end of the industrial era the way we saw the world and judged what was going on was still in boxes, with a sense of predictability. Financial growth was always good.
These paradigms no longer work for us. We need a new way.
I hear about young entrepreneurs wanting to make things that will last, not just use and throw away, and I am heartened. Meaningful work is more important than just having a job to enjoy the weekend. They know that more of the same is not OK. Are we listening?
At a personal level this shifts our focus from what we do to who we are as the authentic starting point. The disconnect between who we say we are and what we do cannot be papered over.
Being has important implications for creativity, not just in the arts.
If we want new solutions we need to think differently. And this doesn’t start with doing. Prototyping, testing, experimenting and analysing are all vital, but it begins with our looking at the situation or opportunity from a different place.
Flicking a switch won’t do it. We need the space – in head and heart – to be ready to explore differently. This is creativity.
So what’s the connection with being? Our do-ing minds are all about tasks and actions, usually with tangible things in a predictable way. Busy, active and tending to be short term or operational.
Being doesn’t start with action. In fact it resides in the place of being OK with inaction, with space, with no immediate or right answers. Content with who we are in our own skin.
Creative thinking often starts where we’re not expecting it. Left field or taking time to notice or listen in a deeper way.
I’ve had the B. badge a long time now. I still struggle with the tension between being and doing, but I’m clearer about the choices.
Today in the aftermath of the Manchester bombing, instead of doing more on our new contact management system I’m going to Lampeter to the Welsh Quilt Centre exhibition.
The long drive through Welsh countryside will rest my mind and restore my soul after a busy few weeks. The beauty of the exhibition will stir my creative juices. I want to develop a new way of using our alpaca fibre that is sustainable for us and others. It needs to be creative and I can’t do it from where I am and the limitations of current thought.
I also want to be open to my seeing my role in the ongoing creation of the world in a different way.
What about you – where are you on the ‘be-ing’ scale?