Darwin’s Rhea

The story goes that Charles Darwin heard about a type of rhea (a flightless bird similar to an ostrich) that was smaller and rarer than the ones he’d previously come across in his Patagonian travails. After a time searching for the rare bird, he gave up until he found himself eating one over dinner.

Shocked, surprised and delighted, he collected the remnants of the bird and sent them back home to Cambridge for analysis.

What gets me about this story is the synchronicity of the event and its catalytic role in helping Darwin to build an evidence base for his theory on patterns of replacement, central to the development of On the Origin of Species and later, The Descent of Man.

Call it luck, divine provenance, universal confluence…whatever it is, I’m sending big-ups to this sacrificial bird. It’s barbecued bones helped Darwin send shock waves through the establishment and remove any doubt about the extent of our human connectivity and our intractable bond to the natural environment that gives us life.

Big-ups rhea…for helping us take our heads out of the sand.

p.s. extraordinary drawing of rhea done by yours truly.

To Risk or Not to Risk

In a few humourously succinct minutes author and playwright Michael Gurr manages to capture the torment that is the grant application process. While he focuses on the experience of the artist, the pain is just as inscrutable for any creator (be you scientist or educator) attempting to quantify the often unquantifiable.

One of the tragedies of our governments’ adoption of market based economic thinking has been the loss of a capacity to support the development of ideas without the need to insist upon a bogus language of publicly defensible outcomes. While governments have an inalienable right to justify public expenditure, I can’t help but question how public value is really being achieved through a funding process that has, at its heart, the fear of creative risk-taking.

Governments are just made up of people of course, so if we delve a little more deeply they can be a useful mirror to our own selves – perhaps those parts we most detest and wish to disown. So when I put it that way, what is it about creative process that I’m so fearful of? that makes me want to lock it down into some kind of certain outcome that I can defend?

Well…I guess in choosing to embark on a creative process I really have to let go of the illusion of control and the fact that I don’t have all the answers…and that’s kinda scary. What if my idea turns out to be a turkey? or worse, what if I end up my wearing my insides on my outside, my vulnerability and failure exposed for all the world to see??

So if I follow the logic of government I can diminish the risk of a creative process by locking it down with a prescribed outcome – genius! There is one problem with this of course…risk is not the only thing that’s diminished.