Thursday, May 29, 2008

Thoughts: Tradition, Manners and Creativity

two nights ago, as I walked up to the door of my hotel, I opened the door for two young women. I didn't think much of it until, after a cursory "thank you" to me, one of the women said to the other "How original!"

Original? Opening doors for someone? I learned to do it watching my grandfather and I am old enough to be a grandfather myself. But when something as "old fashioned" as manners is "original", suddenly applying them poses the possibility of becoming creative.

There might be something to that, really. Today, ignoring people and trampling on their sensitivies, rudeness and ignoring convention seems to be pretty normal. Think about it - in movies, TV and popular culture, very little seems to have much shock value any more. People are rarely surprised by rudeness, but when someone is particularly kind or solicitous, they are surprised.

I laugh at this in a way. Manners suddenly have the chance to be.... dare I say it..... an agent of creativity? Subversive in a positive way?

I work in the TV industry, which is not known for being very traditional. TV people, whether in programming or the technology end where I work, are known for always looking for the next big thing. And so there is always surprise when people find that I am a pretty traditional Christian. Some are even intrigued by it. It's seen as surprising.

And that is what creativity is... surprising. It's that ability to surprise and grab interest that arks creativity. How odd that tradition, manners and old fashioned virtues are now avenues for creativity. But it seems they are.

But for those of us who have had those things instilled in us, it's another reason to hang on to them. Not just because they have value inherently (I happen to believe they do), but also because they are now an opportunity to be creative. So apply those manners. Be kind. Embrace your traditions. You've gone from the back of the line to the forefront of creativity, just by staying where you are!


PS: The picture is of the kitchen in a house in Washington County, NY, where I once took a class on cooking over an open hearth, colonial style. The house and it's simple graciousness reminds me of the best of tradition, and that's why I chose it for this post. You can click on it for a larger version.

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