Wisdom From Arthur C. Clarke: Breaking the Mold with Purpose and Creativity

One of my all-time favorite science fiction books is The City and The Stars, by Arthur C. Clarke. I believe it was the first sci-fi book I ever read.

This magical story details the life of Alvin, a “Unique,” who has never been born before.

In the fully enclosed, domed city of Diaspar, everyone else has lived many lives — they are reborn cyclically from the city’s Central Computer banks — and their memories of their past lives return to them on their 20th birthdays. Alvin has no prior memories.

Alvin’s uniqueness was deliberately designed. Because the city creators knew that the measures put into place to protect the last of the human race might someday no longer be needed (including behavioral inhibitions to keep everyone safe at home), they knew that a catalyst would be required to test the waters and breakthrough old paradigms when the time was right.

Over the billion years the city existed and of the millions of city inhabitants at any given time, only 14 other Uniques emerged to play this key role in the fate and future of the city.

Unfortunately for Alvin, as someone with such a unique purpose and role to play, he didn’t fit in well with his co-habitants. None of the other people in his life were interested in seeing what was beyond the walls, or questioning why things were they way they were.

One day, Alvin met another unique character: Khedron, the Jester. Although Khedron had lived before, he too was designed to play a key role — the role of the artist and the saboteur — with the purpose of shaking things up, stimulating discourse and debate, and catalyzing other catalysts (the Uniques) into action.

The city planners had chosen his role with care: They realized that a billion-year-old city would get downright boring and complacent without periodical upheaval, crime, disorder, and change.

Although the Jester had lived before, and had his own implanted inhibitions, he operated outside the societal norms and could help Alvin to claim his purpose and to act on it. Khedron became Alvin’s muse, in a sense.

Ultimately, Alvin ventured beyond the city walls to discover the self-imposed secret truths that kept the human race cowering on planet Earth and fulfilled his purpose.

I share this story with you for a number of reasons:

  • I love the demonstration of purpose — of how a single individual can have a lasting impact — and how compelling that purpose can be. Alvin could not rest until he had fulfilled his purpose. Khedron fulfilled his purpose as well. Each had a role to play.
  • I also love how The Jester — the archetypal fool — demonstrated the powerful role an artist plays in a society. Often creativity and art are thought of as gratuitous or entertaining, but this story caused me to see creativity as a powerful force for change, learning, growth, healing, and understanding. When I hear people debating or disliking an art piece (particularly a public art piece), I smile to myself, and think, “Good! That artist is fulfilling her purpose — she’s got people talking.”
  • I love the idea that not fitting the mold is not only “designed” but is the key ingredient for success. The discomfort both characters experienced as “different” parallels the lives of many sensitives and creatives as we navigate this world not well-designed for us. Precisely because of the fear of being different, or rocking the boat, many of us hold back. But as sensitive sages and visionary creatives, when we hold back, we fail to fulfill our purpose. We must recognize that not fitting in is part of our impetus to fulfill our purpose.
  • I love the reminder that we require muses and supporters as we breakthrough the limitations imposed on us (self-imposed and otherwise). As my teacher Sonia says, “We cannot do this alone.”

 

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What do you think?
I’d love to hear from you:

  • What does this spark for you?
  • Where are you ready to venture into new territory?
  • What status quo paradigm are you longing to challenge?
  • Who is your Khedron or muse?

Please share your comments and thoughts on the blog below.

 

 

 

 

 

6 Principles from a Creative Genius on Making Your Vision a Reality

I’ve recently been obsessed with George Lucas, creator of the Star Wars saga and other blockbuster films, which has led to all sorts of interesting reading and web exploration. Many people seem to believe Lucas has gone over to the “Dark Side” himself, only “in it for the money” with his projects (we’ll have to talk about that another time), but I’ve always found him to be an inspiring visionary.

Here’s why I’m interested: I believe that we can learn from successful, creative geniuses about how to bring our dreams to fruition.

I recently re-watched a documentary about the making of the original Star Wars trilogy. The insider’s look at the creation of a grand vision is utterly compelling.

What I love about watching George Lucas in action — particularly the George of the 1976 Star Wars production era — is seeing his absolute dedication and unshakable commitment to the creation of his art, his way.

Again and again, he steered clear of involvement with the Hollywood studios as much as he could (particularly later in the film series), and found ways to maintain his independence, like retaining merchandising rights (even when it wasn’t clear there would be a popular market for the merchandise).

He worked and reworked his script to be as precise as possible and checked and rechecked his story themes to make sure he was conveying the powerful mythological messages and meanings he wanted to convey.

He repeatedly overcame what looked like insurmountable odds to bring his vision to reality. With the first film, schedules were massively delayed, props were malfunctioning, costumes and sets weren’t living up to his vision, budgets were falling by the way side, and the studio was threatening to pull the plug, but still he kept on.

Clearly, Lucas experienced his own hero’s journey to create his films, along the lines of the story he tells of Luke Skywalker facing his own shadow and obstacles, reaching deep within himself to grow and expand into who he is meant to be and what he is meant to do in the world.

So what is it that enables one creative visionary to succeed, where another might fail? What can we learn from George Lucas about how to make our own visions real?


Here are 6 principles I’ve gleaned from my studies of him so far:

1. If you can see it, it must be possible. People around Lucas would tell him that something couldn’t be done, and he’d say, “Don’t worry about how we’re going to do it.”

I’ve always believed that if I can see something, there has to be a way to create it, even if I can’t see how yet. That’s how I’ve taught myself so much of what I’ve learned, and created so much of what I’ve created.

Interestingly, many technological advances are first devised in science fiction circles — and then the scientists figure out how to make it so.

If you have a creative vision, treat it with sacred respect, trust it, and get to work.

2. Stay true to your vision. Repeatedly, the people who worked with him would say that Lucas’ vision and passion for the idea were what made it all possible. They were obviously in awe of his ability to hold the vision, even when they couldn’t see it themselves.

Are you clear on the big idea of your vision and ready to see it through to the end, even if you don’t know exactly how you’re going to get there?

Find what you LOVE about it, remind yourself WHY you’re doing it, and go for it. Passion and perseverance will carry you through.

3. Delegate. A true visionary enlists other talented, dedicated, and creative supporters to help him or her make a vision real. George Lucas repeatedly hired other directors, screen writers, and editors, for instance, despite having those skills himself, because he knew he couldn’t be in the trenches and hold the big vision.

4. Be a strong leader. Although the pressure was intense, Lucas never seemed to waver or give up. Powerful leadership requires an unshakable faith in purpose and direction. Be clear on yours and retain your independence. It’s YOUR vision after all.

5. Be flexible. At the same time, be flexible, and allow your team to support you.

One of Lucas’ directors, Irvin Kershner, disagreed with him on a key line (where Han Solo says, “I know” in response to Leia’s “I love you” in the second film). Lucas thought it was a mistake, but went with it for an early screening. The audience loved it and talked about endlessly — so George left it as it was. He was flexible.

6. Trust your feelings. The concept of “The Force” in the Star Wars saga is the thread that weaves together both a teaching from the films and from Lucas’ creative legacy. Lucas knows the importance of developing and mastering our own emotional intelligence. Clearly he has followed his own, time and again, despite obviously massive outside pressure to conform to various norms and expectations.

From my perspective, this is all about trusting your own inner wisdom, even if it doesn’t make sense on the surface.

After all, every Jedi master knows that our eyes can deceive us.



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I’d love to hear about how or if this article has impacted you. Thanks for sharing your comments here on the blog, below.



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What’s Jenna Up To?

~> Thursday, July 29, 2010, Jenna starts her Embrace Your Inner Wisdom teleclass series. Learn to work with one of your greatest gifts as a sensitive soul — your intuition. Regular registration opens soon. Watch this space for details.

~> August 2010. Jenna’s Give Voice to Your Inner Vision Mastermind Retreat. Clarify your unique vision to implement your Life Purpose in a specific, step-by-step plan. We’re in the process of finalizing the dates for this in-person retreat to be held here in Berkeley, California. Interested? Please contact Jenna’s team to be put on the mailing list for the program.



Joe Versus the Volcano: A Hero’s Journey

One of my all-time favorite movies is “Joe Versus the Volcano” with Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan.

The horror of the opening sequence when Joe goes to work in the morning makes me cringe in delighted horror.

If you haven’t seen it, a very washed-out, sickly-looking Joe approaches a dark factory, marching along in a line of stumbling, automatons in dark business suits, trampling the lone, brave, bright yellow flower audacious enough to eek out an existence between the cracks of the dismal concrete pathway.

Once inside, Joe sits in an office without windows, tortured by the incessant flickering of fluorescent light bulbs going bad, listening to his co-worker’s constant sniffling and his boss’s endlessly repetitive telephone conversations. And all this not to mention the fact that Joe has a pointless, bureaucratic job devoid of meaning. It’s enough to make a sensitive soul tremble in terror.

And when I compare this movie to the typical, modern-day work experience, it doesn’t seem so far off despite its exaggerations, especially for a sensitive soul. Anonymous cubicles, fluorescent lights, limited privacy, meaningless work. It’s no wonder we have such trouble finding satisfaction!

But that’s not really why I love the movie.

What I see embodied within the film is the hero’s journey – a return to true self. Joe goes from being a hypochondriac to a vibrant, life-filled being because he is finally willing to say “No” to what no longer serves him.

He finds joy in life by engaging life – and by living with courage and curiosity. He is given the gift of a giant wake-up call (albeit a false one) that finally gets his attention. His misguided belief that he is going to die inspires him to consider a new way. He starts to speak his truth — he tells people what he really thinks — and he doesn’t hold back or play it safe. He quits his soul-sucking job and finally starts to LIVE.

Like Joe, salvation is possible for us when we take the time to discover our true selves, learn to see the joy in life again, and let go of what is dragging us down. So what are you holding back from? How are you playing it safe? What are you ready to let go of? How are you longing to be free?

Remember, it’s never too late to start now.