I went on a creative outing last week with Street Wisdom in Nottingham. For the uninitiated, their enticing strapline is ‘Learning Takes to the Streets’ and the general idea is that ‘the environment and people around us are full of wisdom we largely overlook or ignore.’ We were briefed to take a question or problem with us that we were looking to solve and to use the creativity of the cityscape to review it anew. And so we met, a bit apprehensively from my point of view on Nottingham Town Hall steps, having already approached a couple of strangers to ask if they were Street Wisdom and getting some quizzical looks. I eventually found the group. Preliminaries out of the way, the session started with four quick exercises undertaken alone a 10 minute stroll in each case to 1) Go to what draws you; 2) Slow…right…down; 3) Look for patterns; 4) Look for beauty. This gave us the eyes to see and the ears to listen and honed our observational skills for the rest of the afternoon.
Duly primed, we then went off on our Quest. This consisted of totally free-flow time of an hour, equipped only with a map tucked under our arm of where we were to congregate for our debriefing session, and with our problem to be solved tucked neatly in our mind. We could share our problem with the rest of the Wisdom seekers or keep it to ourselves but were encouraged to talk with people along the way and observe our environment.
My Quest took me through a student part of the city where I found many new and exciting shops, purveying all sorts of goods and services and ending up in a cracking music shop where I spent a lively time discussing the merits of buying a new drum kit that I’d had my eyes on for some months, and had been prevaricating on the wisdom of so doing. .
We met up in a pub for the wash up session, which spoke loudly to me. We had all had very different experiences in our discoveries and our adventures. And that’s where the 50 Shades of Day come in. We all found different shadings in the afternoon’s activity and took very different thoughts away from the day. One of my observations was the detachedness of people in cities. Many were ensconced in their headsets with music or glued to their phones, texting and talking and very much missing that life was actually all around them. The flip side of that was sitting watching a terrier patiently observe its owner as he devoured a tub of ice cream. I had to sit and wait to watch the outcome. In the end, he got to lick the tub out. I was quite relieved as I was going to buy him a cornet if he hadn’t got his just desserts. It was a nice counterpoint, a glimpse of trust and sharing, mutuality and relationship in the frenzy of city life.
So what was Street Wisdom all about for me? You can call this what you like, but it certainly is a creative process, call it mindfulness, prayer, intuition, contemplation – depending what baseline you come from. It is a well-documented process, stepping out of your box to improve your creativity. Einstein was a big believer in intuition and creativity and found music a great influence in his problem solving. And we all know the story of Archimedes nearly slipping up on the bar of soap as he leapt up in the bath with a flash of insight. Many artists and writers get their insightful breakthroughs on a walk in the great outdoors. Having done a lot of retreats of various lengths in my time, some in silence, it felt a bit like a mini-retreat to me, but with the added advantage of a top flight drum store on tap. And the whole session was free.
So did I solve my problem? I got a lot of new thoughts and ideas on it and am developing some of them now. And the bonus ball was that I now also know I’m going to get that new drum kit, which one I’m going to get and the store where I’m going to buy it.