Tuesday, August 7, 2012

"I never met an idea I didn't like."

" I never met an idea (a man) I didn't like."

Will Rogers ( above left ) said it  and Mae West ( right) said lots of things, but not " I never met a man I didn't like."
"I never met a man I didn't like." Will Rogers actually said it but I hear it in Mae West's voice when I reflect on my shameless, wanton behavior with ideas. In my mind I have confused and then recombined Will Rogers, Mr. Nice Guy, humorist and political commentator and the grandmother of "A Bad Reputation Is a Good Thing," Mae West. Although, like Mae West, I love to talk in double entendres, in actual fact my sexual exploits would put me in the same class with a femme fatale of the Mother Theresa caliber.  Many say I share her fashion sense as well. Unlike Mother T, I am not celibate but monogamous. Thirty-five years with the same guy. Really? Like an albatross, or a wolf I have mated for life.  Apparently, an albatross will always return to the same place and the same partner.  Some pairs bond for a lifetime, cemented through the use of goofy but affectionate ritual dances. Hah, my guy and I even do the dance! But still, where's the drama in that ?

When it comes to ideas? Oh sister, get out of my way.  Mae West, move over!  Even when I was very young and very single I never played with men-folk the way I absolutely slut around with ideas.  I am easy.  Just cannot get enough of 'em.  I love 'em and leave 'em.  I am totally promiscuous with ideas.  As Mae West would say, "I feel like a million! But not all at once." 

Ideas come and go. Like buses, there is another idea every 5 minutes. But like buses, especially in Boston, the next bus or idea usually is not one you should get on and often is not the one you were waiting for...When I see any new idea I go weak at the knees.  I can be quite naughty.  Not one to wait to be asked, oh no. Hussying right up to an idea I say,  “Look at you! Mmmmm, mmm.  Such a big, strong, handsome idea! Let me sit in your metaphorical lap and run my fingers through your hair. Now, you whisper into my little ear and tell me what you are going to do to me. Did you say sleepless nights? O, you devil! Loss of money? Tarnished reputation? Relationships shot to hell?  - Wait, you are not any run of the mill idea, are you? I think *pant* you might just be *pant* a *pant* a lost cause!  Take me.  Now!"

Is playing with ideas always a bad thing? A very short google search on "playing with ideas" yielded this top website  American Journal of Play  which among other things, "includes material that... illuminates the important role of play in learning and human development throughout the life cycle..."   In a Dec 2011 article,  Playing with Ideas, The Affective Dynamics of Creative Play, by Pat Power,  I found loads of information to explain and put a more healthy spin my licentious behavior with ideas. Power says that "Playfulness is the essence of adaptability..." So, that is a good thing, no? He also notes that playfulness evolved in mammals because it works and has many benefits. I also liked this part a lot:

When adults are in a playful mood, they internalize the high jinks kids enjoy.
Adults play with the boundaries of their own thoughts and perceptions and withthose of others—dynamically exploring possible worlds in fantasies or creative writing; mixing and blending conceptual spaces through satirical imitation or playfuldesign; stretching and breaking established schemas by engaging with art or beingabsurd; and bouncing round otherwise solid and well-defended psychic structuresusing self-deprecating humor or teasing others.
Yeah, we do a lot of "dynamically exploring possible worlds in fantasies or creative writing; mixing and blending conceptual spaces through satirical imitation or playful design" at the massmouth office. By this definition, we play a lot while we work at massmouth,inc.! And our play seems to be, er, um... working?  Power also offers a few somber nuances to the discussion.  For example, here is one that resonated:

It is easy to idealize playfulness because it seems on first analysis to have
overwhelmingly positive attributes. But playfulness is environmentally situatedwith contextual constraints, and even young mammals with a strong propensityto play need to learn these limitations quickly if they are to survive. Anyone whohas experienced inapt playful antics knows how annoying, disruptive, or evenpotentially lethal they can be. Playfulness is not always creative, and in play, as instories, “destruction is a way of causing maximum impact for minimum effort.”
And this:
But it is worth remembering that creativity produces useful ideas and artifacts;
play creates possibilities.
But none of these small reality checks could harsh my mellow.  After reading the positive conclusions of Power's article,  I say it strong and say it loud,  "I am an idea slut and I am proud!"

...This human neoteny enables us to extend a level of playfulness into later years and is likely to help stimulate neurogenesis in healthy adults and similarly forestalls mental decline in cases of dementia. However, cultural influences can sometimes
be constraining, and the often pervasive effect of the rhetoric of play as frivolity,which is an essentially puritanical attitude toward playfulness in adults, can havereal repercussions for adult play, creativity, and quality of life. And why shouldwe cease being playful when 'the joyfulness of infinite play, its laughter, lies inlearning to start something we cannot finish.'
From Journal of Play by Pat Power
I am buoyed by this reading.  As Geoffry Chaucer said, "A man may say full sooth [the truth] in game and play." And, as Shakespeare said in  King Lear, "Jesters do oft prove prophets."  It seems that ultimately, the way to truth, health and happiness is through play.  I do recommend the whole article which is available for free as a PDF.

Pat Power is Senior Lecturer of Digital Media and Design at London Metropolitan University.  A specialist in 3-D animation, he has worked widely in both industry and academia, including a position as Academic Manager for Multimedia and Animation at the Digital Academy. His interdisciplinary research encompasses animation, emotion, play, narrative, and the synthesis of science and the arts. In articles published in Animation: An Interdisciplinary Journal, he has examined expressive style in 3-D computer graphic narrative and the creative nature of character conception. Power also serves as an External Examiner at Oxford Brookes University.

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