“Perchance to Dream” #41 #cong17

By Joan Mulvihill.

“Between the click of the light and the start of a dream” – Arcade Fire.  

In the context of innovation, we talk a lot about ‘light bulb’ moments, that mental image of a little cartoon light popping above our heads, our sparky genius idea.   Now read that lyric again: “between the click of the light and the start of a dream...”  We are in darkness for those moments at the start of the dream.   It is when we have clicked out the lights that we go to sleep and it is when we sleep that we hope to dream. 

Is it at these edges of the darkness that we are at our most creative?  Darkness, the absence of light.  So many of our great writers, painters, poets and musicians have danced at the edges of the darkness.  Is it this that fuels their creativity?  So much writers block on a gleaming white page, so much open space on that yawning canvas.  If only we could get something down, fill the empty page with darkness and then go back to add the light.   

The Dark Ages preceded the Renaissance; the age of enlightenment, of rebirth, of science and art and innovation. 

As I objectively revisit the boom years, it was a dark age of shallow materialism where we were told to trade in our values for vanity and our principles for plastic.  Just as in the Dark Ages, people left their farms for more profitable pursuits in cities in search of plenty.  And therein lies the misguided economics of innovation.   The more we have the less we need to create.  Economics can be summarily defined as the allocation of scarce resources.  The economics of innovation should surely be built on scarcity.  In times of scarcity our resourcefulness and creativity is stimulated and challenged.  We abandon our hardwired functional fixedness and embrace our creative child brain.   Adults see a cardboard box as a place to store things, our creative child brain sees a castle and a car.  In times of plenty we have thrown money at the problem and bought the easy solution, the perfect plastic toys. Where’s the fun in that? And is this why large wealthy organisations struggle with innovation?  Is it possible that easy innovation through acquisition has cut off the supply of ‘scarcity’, the oxygen for our creative cells? 

So now I look to the past decade of recession.  The click of the light to the edges of darkness. Necessity passed all tests as the mother of invention.  We relearned how to make do and mend.  We extolled the virtues of upcycling and repurposing. When we lost our jobs, we created jobs for ourselves.  When our employer’s business closed down, we started our own.  Scarcity of supply of jobs, of cash, of credit but an abundance of creativity and innovation.  It was in this darkness that we remembered how to dream.  It has been a dreamful darkness – for some.

And for some, it is not.  During the Boom Ages of plenty we clamoured to cities with the stifling smog of competitive consumerism which led to the rampant spread of a disease, “The Red Debt”, the Black Death killer plague of our time?   A vile analogy.

People are dying now just as they did from the Black Death.  The symptoms are mostly silent and invisible.   Alive one moment, gone the next. The origins of this pathogen are surely set in The Boom Ages of its dormancy.   And we have not found an inoculum, something from within ourselves to create or increase our resistance or immunity. 

Depression is complex.   There is no one cause and no one cure.  And just as we are sitting here, another person clicks the light into darkness, I hope, to dream.  Because “to die, to sleep… to sleep perchance to dream, there’s the rub” (Hamlet).  

CongRegation © Eoin Kennedy 2017 eoin at congregation dot ie