community · creativity · happiness · Social

Matthew Silver, The Great Perfomer is simply silly for a living

I read about this street performer on Mashable. Based in Manhattan, he sounds like a guy with the same passion and vision for a play-filled world that I have, so I just had to share:

Photo image courtesy of Flickr, charlesdyer.

Matthew Silver just wants people to smile.

Silver, “The Great Performer,” can be seen throughout Manhattan using dance, song and oversized props to ease the tension of everyday life — because, as he says on his website, “it’s OK to be silly from time to time.”

Matthew describes his work on his website as an antidote to seriousness:

My role as a clown, trickster and village idiot is to parody excessive seriousness by playing with taboos, rules, and social norms.  My inspiration comes from my heart.  I perform for smiles and laughter, loosening people’s armor, and opening up a portal for imagination, creativity and love.

Silver reaching out to his audience, literally. Photo from his website.

Glad there is somebody out there who spends his time encouraging people to be silly.

Check out Matthew Silver on his website or Facebook page.

behavior · creativity · design · psychology · writing

How The Mundane Can Produce Creativity

I subscribe to this business blog, The 99 Percent (Success is 1% inspiration, 99% determination), that typically offers business strategies and stuff, but this article I found really interesting; the idea that having a ritual around your day actually allows your brain to focus on being creative:

You follow the same routine, sipping your coffee, browsing your email, skimming through the same blogs, the same news pages, the same social networks. As your colleagues arrive, you exchange the same greetings, the same gripes and gossip. As you drain the cup, you get the same itch for the same music, take your headphones out and plug yourself in. You open the same blank document, give it the same hard stare. The music kicks in.

Now you can begin.

If that sounds anything like your morning routine, you’re in good company. Over the years, as a coach and trainer, I’ve heard a similar story from hundreds of creative professionals. Of course, the details will vary – if you’re like me, your trip to work will be the “30 second commute” known to freelancers the world over, and you’ll be making your own coffee. You may incorporate meditation, or other exercise into your morning routine. And you may use a camera, easel, guitar or whatever instead of a computer.

But the chances are you’re living proof of one of the great paradoxes of creativity: that the most extraordinary works of imagination are often created by people working to predictable daily routines. There’s even an entire blog (sadly now on hold) devoted entirely to accounts of the Daily Routines of writers, artists, and other interesting people.

more via How Mundane Routines Produce Creative Magic :: Tips :: The 99 Percent.

It says the 3 common threads of these rituals are:

  1. Uniqueness – it should be something (or a combination of things) you don’t associate with other activities, otherwise the effect will be diluted.
  2. Emotional intensity – the kind you experience when you’re really immersed in creative work.
  3. Repetition – the more times you experience the unique trigger in association with the emotions, the stronger the association becomes.

Athletes, actors, and even accountants have these rituals, so why not creative types? What about you, what behaviors or rituals do you have to help you concentrate on being creative?

play · school

Play Anthropology

Rafe and I attended a very interesting meeting this weekend, and I hope he will put his thoughts down on this experience as well.
It was essentially a pitch for a new business and the audience was supposed to provide feedback on the idea. The meeting, however, was a little different because it was focused on Play. Yes, the fine art and discipline of play.
Frank Forencich, the guy pitching the idea, has been making a living writing books and giving classes on his philosophy of how humans don’t move enough and Americans need to start living like Exuberant Animals, and now wants to develop a camp/home base for his classes. All the people who had been invited to hear Frank’s pitch for the Exuberant Animal Retreat (the current working name for his idea) – physical therapists, physicians, primatologists, traceurs, trainers, students, artists, yogis, outdoor trip leaders, and a budding anthropologist (me) – were all interested in how people play and how to get people to play more and incorporate it into their lives, and for some had made it their job. The best example of this was Stuart Brown, founder of the National Institute for Play (technically it’s his “retirement” job, but it’s not much of a retirement).
This idea, this concept, of studying how people play, why people play, what they get out of it, and the fact that all those things should be obvious to people and yet it’s not, is a really intriguing idea to me. The idea of studying play for a living and helping to promote play has been distracting me since last Wednesday, and it’s only getting worse. I only half-joked to Rafe that I should base my master’s thesis on watching puppies play with each other.
It was so inspiring to talk to this group of people because it showed me that I could get paid to study play, or at least parts of play. A lot of work is with corporations or doing studies on education, which is fine with me. I would be more than happy to do a study that shows, once again, that kids learn better in school if they have recess, hence taking recess away is NOT going to help them do better on standardized tests! I don’t know how that study would qualify as anthropology, since I’m not really looking at any culture per say, but it could fall under human behavior and processing the world; that’s close enough. If anybody knows someone who’s looking for a play anthropologist, let me know.
What really got me starting to think about this in a cohesive way, almost serendipitously, was an assigned essay on anthropologist Victor Witter Turner. While Turner was known mostly for his work on symbolism and study of religious ritual, his theories of liminality, structure and anti-structure, everyday ritual, and play in general really struck a chord with me. He’s one of the first theorists I’ve come across who have even looked at play and ritual and pretend and considered it as important as I certainly think it is. I’m actually having a hard time with my paper and simply writing an overview of all of Turner’s work and not just talking about his ideas on play and how according to Turner play, pretend, and cutting loose is an essential part of being human and functioning in society. I’m seriously considering a paper on that particular subject for one of the anthropological conferences coming up in the Spring.
So, even though I am still stressed and sleep-deprived, even though I feel ragged and worn, the whole experience of the past week has re-instilled a purpose in me. It has reminded me why I’m putting myself through hell to go to grad school, why I fell in love with Anthropology in the first place, and where I can be useful, where I want to put my energy into the world.
“Play” is a perfect category to describe everything I’m interested in: how do people learn, the behavior and ritual in sports, performance of all types (dancing, art, story-telling), identity, photography, people adapting to new environments and technologies, and of course looking at biology and culture combined. All of these have aspects of play, or just straight up are play. Turner’s ideas can be applied to all of these cultural actions as well, and can be used to look at and dissect the meaning, the purpose, the reason why we do them.
The only sad thing is, because play is “just play” the subject probably won’t be taken seriously by many. Even I have moments of feeling silly about wanting to study the seriousness of play. But it’s not silly, it’s vital, and knowing that there are other people out there who feel the same way – Rafe, Frank, Stuart, Deborah the primatologist, the traceurs, the yogis and physical trainers – gives me strength in going forward and going after something so passionately.
Thank you!