Friday, 25 January 2019

KonMari: It's Okay to Keep All Your Books

At the onset of the New Year, I did what I do every year and got rid of old stuff I no longer needed or wanted.  My rules are thus:

  1. Do I like this item? If not, toss.
  2. Do I have an actual, planned, scheduled use for this item within the next six months (or within a year, if seasonal)? If not, out it goes.
  3. Exception to the rule: Family heirloom or something of great, exceptional value.
Things I got rid of this year:
  • Clothes that don't fit.
  • Shoes I never wear.
  • Old sheets, blankets, bedding, towels, etc.
  • Fabric scraps
  • Mismatched plates
  • Mismatched plastics
  • Christmas decorations to which I have no sentimental attachments
  • Household ornaments that I had no idea I was holding on to. Unless it does something, why keep it?
It's amazing how free the house feels when you get rid of useless stuff.

Two days after I started my mighty cull, the Marie Kondo memes exploded on the internet.

Marie Kondo has about thirty books in her home that truly 'spark joy' for her.  A lo of people mis-interpreted this to mean, "You can only keep thirty books and must ditch the rest."

Boy, the uproar.

What I found interesting is that the Great KonMari Uproar was only about one thing. It wasn't about clothes or kitchenware. It was about books.


This is one of my many bookshelves:

We like, no, we LOVE books. They spark a great joy in us. There's something wonderfully magic in a book. I hold it in my hand and I can feel marvelousness. This could be because books saved me from reality when I was a child.

Reality was a not-nice place for me growing up. Thank goodness my parent were bookworms and had plenty of books at home. I read every single one I could lay my hands on. My folks took me to the library regularly. Even got me my first library card at age 3. (I may still have it tucked away somewhere. It's yellow. You can't miss it.) I'd come home from the horror known as school and I'd lose myself in books.

So yeah. Books spark joy. Opening the cover of a book is like opening an escape hatch. I can't imagine getting rid of any of our print books.

I've been asked if I'd get rid of any books I won't read again. My answer: I won't know I won't read it again until after I'm dead. I've gone twenty years between readings of certain books.

Now, there are books I've read once, and I know for sure I'll never read again. Those books have already left my collection because they proved their unworthiness to stay.

The rest are there for a reason.

* * * * *

I did my research and watched a few episodes of Marie Kondo. It was surprisingly good. She took a different approach to determining what to keep and what to toss, compared with other shows of similar genre.

I did learn one thing. You keep something because it brings you joy. You don't keep something because you're afraid to lose it.

Saturday, 12 January 2019

Comedy and creativity (Knock, knock...)

What's your favourite joke? Please share in the comments.

A friend recently shared this article from The Atlantic on kids and jokes.

It reminded me that jokes are an important part of the human experience. But what a lot of people don't realise about jokes is that they can also be a measure of mental health, and they are markers of creativity in people.

I'm gonna talk about the relationship between jokes and creativity.

I spent much of my theatre life as a comedienne, and I served my senior internship in a comedy theatre. Also, as a Film Studies major, I studied a lot of 20th Century comedy. Jokes are a staple of human comedy. There are people who make a living from telling jokes. (I don't know if I want to be one of them; comedy is hard work.)

A joke relies on a creative play on words or a juxtaposition of two things (situations, etc) that aren't necessarily the first logical step.  To understand (but not necessarily appreciate or even like) a joke involves thinking outside the square.

This requires a degree of creativity.

I refer to creativity as the human method of creating new meaning out of existing material. I'm not just talking about someone painting a picture or writing a song. Human creativity is problem-solving. It's the taking of elements (like music chords) or clues (why are there only six cookies left in the cookie jar, and why isn't my normally voracious six-year-old not eating his dinner?) and working something out. Creativity is me at work figuring out how to reduce our paper usage by over half.

What have you made that wasn't there before? Creativity is the process you used to create it. How you strung your thoughts together to come up with a solution, whether it was a painting or a print server, this process of stringing thoughts together is creativity.

Jokes rely completely on this. Jokes enable us to see things in different lights. Jokes get us thinking.

Take the joke: "How do you get down off an elephant?" The first logical step is that this sentence implies how do you, sitting on top of an elephant, debark to the ground?

The punchline, "You don't. You get down off a goose," requires further thought. What does a goose have to do with debarking from an elephant?  Nothing.  The word "down" isn't used as an adverb, but a noun. Goosedown is a form of feathers. Elephants, lacking feathers, do not have down. You cannot get down from an elephant. You can, however, harvest down from a goose. You can get down off a goose.

To explore this cleverness in wordplay (an adjective vs a noun interpretation of the word 'down') requires creativity.  (You don't have to like a joke to be able to appreciate its logic. Liking or disliking a joke is purely a matter of taste.)

Creativity is a key skill in problem-solving. It allows you to look at what's present, and extrapolate what's not there (but could be).

If you're the sort of person who often says, "I don't get it," when you hear a joke, you may wish to explore your creative process. Ask people to tell you jokes. If you don't understand, fear not to ask them to explain it. The more jokes you hear, the better you'll get at getting them. Start here.

Don't be surprised if you one day discover you're better at solving problems, all because you listen to jokes.

Her Grace asks, "What's brown and sticky?"  A brown stick.