Thursday, October 09, 2014

Moments of Conception 117 -- The Inventions Scene from Honey, I Blew Up The Kid

All creativity begins with the moment of conception.

That little piece of kindling that gets the fire going. That initial source of inspiration that takes on a life of its own. That single note from which the entire symphony grows. That single spark of life that signals an idea’s movement value, almost screaming to us, something wants to be built here.

And so, in this blog series, I’m going to be deconstructing my favorite moments of conception from popular movies. Each post will contain a video clip from a different film, along with a series of lessons we can learn from the characters.

Today's clip comes from the inventions scene in Honey, I Blew Up The Kid:

What can we learn?

The prolific power of emergence. Szalinski might be an eccentric nut job, but the man is a prolific inventor. He’s completely optimized their household, automating everything from shaving to dusting to cooking breakfast to getting the mail. This scene captured my imagination as a kid. Szalinski made me want to become an inventor. But as adult, watching this movie is a charming reminder to practice polyamorous creation, or the pursuit of relationships with multiple projects. Keeping lots of interesting balls in the air. Maintaining diversity among creative endeavors. Sound like an attention deficit disaster? It’s not. In fact, the act of dividing your attention among several projects doesn’t automatically lessen it. In fact, it’s quite the opposite. Polyamorous creation actually makes the creative process faster and better. By giving yourself permission to spin a multitude of creative plates, you produce positive interactions between endeavors. By allowing different works to bump into each other, you gain more perspective than if you were only engaged in a single project. And so, the result is a whole that’s greater than the sum of its parts. That’s how creativity works. Every act regenerates the system. The more of it you use, the more of it you have. Physicists call it emergence, and their research has found it to be the originator of novelty, creativity and authorship. In short, if one and one makes two, you failed. Are you helping your ideas talk to each other?

Everyone is somebody else’s weirdo. Wayne is one of the definitive movie geniuses of our time. He’s smart and creative and well meaning and enthusiastic. But he’s still weird. He doesn’t do anything normal. Playing baseball? Out of the question. Baseball is for mortals, he says. And yet, that’s what endears us to his character. I remember watching this movie as a teenager, standing in awe of his faithfulness to his own eccentric nature. Hoping that one day, my weirdness would be just as valuable to the world. Fast forward to twenty years later, weird has now gone mainstream. Now it’s cool to be weird. Now the world acknowledges, respects and caters to the weird. Now we don’t have to worry about being weird alone, because whatever obscure thing we’re into, there’s a thousand other people just waiting to connect around it. Nietzsche famously said that those who were seen dancing were thought to be insane by those who couldn’t hear the music. Little did he know, technology would make it instantaneous to find the weird people who do hear the music. If they remade this movie, adjusted for cultural inflation, our protagonist wouldn’t be the punch line of the joke, he’d be the belle of the ball. What group of weird people could you cleanse yourself with?

Use every part of yourself like a buffalo. Wayne has clearly created a life that makes use of all of his gifts. He’s found a home for all of his talents, feels fully expressed and is constantly firing on all cylinders. None of his assets have gone unharvested. What more could an inventor ask for? That’s the definition of intellectual freedom. Pure, unadulterated creation. And yet, he’s not inventing machines for the sake of inventing. Every part has its place. Each contraption solves a real, urgent and pervasive problem in their lives. Wayne is a master of using his creativity to scratch his family’s itches. Then again, he does accidentally expose the toddler to his industrial sized growth machine, which gradually grows the child to over one hundred feet tall and destroys the downtown are. Woops. And so, it’s a subtle lesson about becoming a victim of your own efficiency. Not letting the creativity of our minds supersede the practicality of real life. Because ambition can get very expensive. Who is the primary beneficiary of your creative talents and abilities?

What did you learn?

* * * *
Scott Ginsberg
That Guy with the Nametag
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