Diapers, Ninja Turtles and Creativity

Most of what I know about creativity, I learned while changing diapers.

Many years ago, one of my children was lying on the changing table, singing nursery songs and laughing himself silly. Having learned the transformative power of negativity, he was taking all the songs he knew and changing them by negating whatever they said. For example:

“Hey diddle, diddle
The cat and the fiddle
The cow DIDN’T jump over the moon. (Hee hee)
The little dog DIDN’T laugh (hee hee) . . .”

I was trying to exercise fatherly tolerance for this two-year sense of humor, when I looked across the room and saw a poster on the wall that read, “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.”

Suddenly, it hit me that my two-year-old and that poster were doing the same thing:

· He took an ordinary song with comfortable, well-known words and changed it around by putting in words that did not belong there. The result was, on a very basic level, humor.

· Somebody took two words that not belong together–turtles and ninjas–and put them together to form a concept that, judging by the commercial response, many people found fascinating.

It was then that I decided that creativity is simply the act of putting things where they do not seem to belong. I have given speeches from under tables, from behind curtains, and while jogging around the audience to demonstrate our attraction to seeing things where they are not expected.

Notice how God’s creative power works in the same way. God put things where they were not expected, to form a cosmos. Jesus came to make all things new. He kept teaching the unexpected:

Blessed are the meek.
Turn the other cheek.
Die so that others may have eternal life.

The first half of creativity is simply putting things where there are not expected, where they do not seem to belong, and seeing what happens. Most artists are pretty good at this.

But there is a second part to creativity that is equally important and more difficult. I have an unfortunate habit of remembering the quote but not the author, but here it is: “The task of the artist is to inject chaos in the midst of order and order in the midst of chaos.”

The second task of creativity is to bring the new and unexpected into harmony with that which already exists.

Look back at the first sentence of this article: A strange, unexpected comment. The rest of this article: Bringing that seemingly out-of-place notion into harmony with that which already exists.

That is creativity. That is what brings new life. Since new life is what we are about, that makes thinking creatively and artistically a worthy goal as we go about the task of proclaiming God’s Word.