I shared the following remarks as Executive Director to the University Religious Conference (URC at UCLA) Board of Directors. Although expressed specifically in that context, they are posted here with the suspicion that the content of the essay might have some traction and currency with a wider audience that shares in the vision and mission of the URC:
When I am not involved in Program Planning and in developing policies and procedures to improve the office and building operations of the URC, I am paying attention to the how and why of our mandate and mission. The chore of renovating our organizational operations is a collective and collaborative enterprise involving many of you around this conference table. The adventure of probing and explaining why we are here and what we should concern ourselves with is also a group assignment. I would like to sound a siren of the critical importance of thinking together. As we all know, our society coerces us into a preferential option for doing rather than being, even in the university. I would like to propose a subversive activity labeled “thoughtful creativity” as counter-cultural move to improve the intellectual environment and community both local and global. As an association of religious and community service providers it is my strong conviction that we involve ourselves in “thoughtful creativity” as we perform our duties to provide spiritual guidance and resource the under-served.
In my role as Executive Director, I consider as one of my charges to instigate and implement dimensions that are MIA or are severely neglected. Everyone in this room is compassionate, smart, energetic, and functions as an influencer. The invitation is to find ways, over time, to intentionally think together as we act together. What does this look like you ask? Not sure! But if you accept my solicitation, we will design and customize a new habit and ritual that will revitalize and re-enchant our vocation related to the university and students.
The trigger mechanism that catapulted me in this direction is a recent engagement with the writer David Foster Wallace and his novel titled Infinite Jest, published in 1996. Many readers and critics of novels are of the opinion that this was a game-changer in the history and evolution of the novel. Several felt the novel had exhausted its possibilities. Wallace’s “thoughtful creativity” opened up all sorts of new possibilities. My mind then went racing into the world of the arts where, it seems to me, the most robust “thoughtful creativity” is being generated. Here is a random sampling of persons I experience as practitioners of “thoughtful creativity”:
|David Lynch||Film director||T-Bone Burnett||Musician,producer|
|Frank Gehry||Architect||Madonna||Pop culture icon|
|Johnny Cash||Song writer||Beyoncé||Soloist|
|Andy Warhol||Visual artist||Howard Finster||Folk painter|
|Jodie Foster||Performance artist||Richard Blanco||Poet|
|Pauline Kael||Film Critic||Versace||Fashion designer|
|Anthony Bourdain||Culinary artist||Barack Obama||Orator|
|Barbara Ehrenreich||Journalist UCLA:||Edward Said||Public intellectual|
|Douglas Kellner||Philosopher||Robert Heinecken||Photographer|
|Paul Shrader||Writer/director||Charles Burnett||Writer/director|
|Francis Ford Coppola||Writer/director|
This is a highly selective and partial list; a very personal one to be sure. I identified these representatives because they significantly alter the manner in which their particular art medium and exhibition was and is being practiced and presented. What can we learn from these “thoughtful creators” or others you would prefer on your own list? Is it time for Interfaith practitioners and community service operatives to have a game-changing moment? Where are the future movers and shakers to be observed and interpreted? This kind of genius cannot be manufactured, but discovered and cultivated. I challenge us to be curators of “thoughtful creativity” as well as managers of an organization. Is this too ambitious? Probably! What do we have to lose in being courageous in elevated ambitions and ideals?
Scott D. Young
April 12, 2013