Variety: The Source of Creativity

I truly believe that a variety of activities and interests keep one’s mind active and productive. If that is so, my recent and current activities should keep my brain from ossifying. To wit: (I have always wanted to say that!)

Last week I attended a great conference   in New Orleans, sponsored by Public Health Law Research. The conference was well-organized by a very helpful staff of professionals from Temple University. I am amazed at how much a good, stimulating conference with can recharge one’s intellectual batteries. As Hedley Lamarr said in Blazing Saddles, “My mind is a raging torrent, flooded with rivulets of thought cascading into a waterfall of creative alternatives.” I’m sure the students in my Public Health Law and Policy class at the University of Kansas School of Medicine will benefit.

Speaking of waterfalls of creative alternatives, Last night was a Laughing Matters workshop. We are preparing for our annual Valentine’s Day show. If you can get to Topeka on January 10 or 11 you really should make an attempt to be there.

Just finished helping the Northeast Kansas Muliticounty Health Department develop a visioning story. And speaking of stories, Laugh2Learn is about ready to roll out a new product to help employees develop and present stories about their products.

I’m quite sure I have enough things to do that I can put off cleaning my office a bit longer.


Saturday’s Pun

Big day today, the Senior Class Improv Comedy Company has a gig at Topeka Civic Theatre.

Not much else going on, except for the pun of the day: A novice horse trainer was trying to gain any possible advantage. He reasoned that too much hair was not only adding weight to his horse, it made him less aerodynamic. The solution seemed obvious. Shave the horse. Unfortunately, the horse got a very bad sunburn and couldn’t even stand to wear a saddle. Sadly, the trainer learned a pony shaved is a pony burned.

My 9/11 Reflections

Like many other American churches, on Sunday, September 11, 2011, my home church Grace Episcopal cathedral of Topeka will hold a 9/11 memorial service. Unlike most churches, for our service we have invited the Topeka Islamic Center, and Temple Beth Shalom to join us. In 2001 these three faith communities joined for a prayer service. I am so proud of our parish for this inclusive approach. Imagine, Christians, Jews and Muslims praying together in Topeka Kansas.

It reminds me that the terrorist of 9/11 didn’t do what they did because they were Arabs, nor because they were Muslim. They did what they did because they “knew the truth,” with such certainty that anyone who disagreed with them was not only wrong, but evil, and if evil, worthy of death.

Timothy McVeigh and Terry Nichols also knew the truth.

Several years ago, I wrote and created a “live” John Brown performance. After 9-11 I quit doing it because I realized that the only difference between John Brown and the 9-11 terrorists was the name they called their God, and the cause they believed in. I had seen John Brown as a hero because I agree that slavery is evil. But I realized that like John Brown, the 9-11 terrorists believed their acts were justified because they believed  what they saw as Western Imperialism is evil. They also believed they were doing God’s will. Basically the people we should fear are not Muslims, or for that matter Christians, but anybody who is so convinced they are right they believe those who disagree with them are evil; that the end justifies any means.

So are we to accept injustice in the world and do nothing? absolutely not. Dr. Martin Luther King tells how to deal with injustice in his “Letter From a Birmingham Jail.” If you haven’t read it, you should. If you have read it, read it again.

Final thought: September 11, 2001 was a Tuesday. The following Saturday a Senior Class performance was scheduled. Several people asked me if I would cancel it. I didn’t for three reasons.

  •  One: “The show must go on;”
  • Two: I felt that cancelling the show was what the terrorists would have wanted. They wanted to disturb us and interrupt our lives. I was unwilling to give them that victory.
  • Thee: Laughter heals

We had a small house, and there were almost as many people on stage as in the house. But we laughed. Oh how we laughed. Take that terrorists!

Laugh is not my middle name, but my first  name.

Finally, I truly believe every thing I have written here is true. If you disagree with me, more power to you. I may be wrong.

What is “community” and how do we achieve it?

“A community is best defined as a group of people who, regardless of the diversity of their backgrounds, have been able to accept and transcend their differences, enabling them to communicate effectively and openly and to work together toward goals identified as being for their common good.”

I discovered that definition while working with The University of Kansas Medical Center to help develop a sense of community among students in the Master of Public Health program.

I like that definition. I have often commented that the role of community theatre is to knit diverse elements of a city together. At Topeka Civic Theatre and Academy,, where I first learned improv (Thanks Shannon) I have often commented that the theatre contributes to the community by bringing diverse people together for a common purpose. It is not unusual to find an attorney in a minor role, a food service professional in the lead, and a business leader building sets.

Organizations, whatever their purpose need a sense of community. It you think about it, any team is made up of diverse individuals. It has to be. Numerous diverse skills are needed for an organization to function. But if it is to function at its highest level, it must have a sense of community; the individuals must be able “to accept and transcend their differences.”

Improv training is a wonderful way to do that:

  • First we laugh together. The more we laugh together the safer we feel with each other. It is very hard to bear a grudge after you share a laugh. (Hey I just made that up! You can quote me.)
  • Next, in that same spirit of laughter, we begin to work together toward common goals. It’s good practice that will translate back into the work place.
  • We make discoveries about each other, learn new things and discover new commonalities. We are all much more alike than we are different, and there are several improv exercises that help us discover how very much we have in common.
  • And through it all we have fun!

How often do employees come back to work from a required training session with a smile on their faces? After a session of community building through improv they will. And, if Laugh2learn provides the service, and you are not completely satisfied, you won’t have to pay me!

 What do you have to lose?