The art of making more with less (or why artists will save the world)

In the past five hundred years our population has increased fourteen-fold but our energy consumption has increased by 115 times and the global economy is now 240 times bigger than it was in 1500.*
(Martin Bhaskar)

To become less wasteful we need to become more creative.

The good news is, we’re all artists, and artists, on the most part, make more with less.

When we receive something from our environments, from those around us or those who have gone before us, and when we reflect on it, imagine it, play with it, shape something with it and produce something different, we’re entering into the world of artists and artisans.

It’s a synaesthysic process in as much as it is bringing what we see, feel and do together.  If we only receivers then we are only consumers.

Elle Luna describes the artist’s Must:

‘We can’t prove Must.  We can’t point to it, or define where it stops and starts, because it’s not a thing that we can see.  But we know that it exists because when it’s near, we feel it in our gut; it begs for a second glance, pulls us into another dimension, a space out of time where a day can pass it a moment.’**

Within these words there’s this sense of joining up of what we see, feel and do.  This is where we find we’re most alert, where we find ourselves in a state of Attention.  Not least because we are carried into new, different, unfamiliar places that keep us on our toes.  Brian Eno writes of this state:

“The enemy of creative work is boredom, actually […].  And the friend is alertness.  Now I think what makes you alert is to be faced with a situation that is beyond your control so you have to be watching it very carefully to see how it unfold, to be able to stay on top of it.  That kind of alertness is exciting.”^

Within this lies the prospect of not knowing where we’ll end up, a story unfolding.  Just saying this might be enough to put some off the artistic way.  But if we can go with the flow, something the company 3M encourages its workers to engage in under the title of “flexible attention,” what we find is the kind of engagement with a wide diversity of creativity that may save our planet and solve many of the issues within a creaking eco-system.  Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi writes about living in this unpredictable way:

‘what people enjoy is not the sense of being in control, but the sense of exercising control in difficult situations’.^^

Here is Eno’s alertness made possible by entering the unfamiliar:

‘It is not possible to experience a feeling of control unless one is willing to give up the safety of protective routines.’^^

Who wants to become incompetent, right?  Yet this is where we’ll grow our competences to a new level.  In this case it’s the art of making more with less we’re all capable of.

My friend and mentor Alex McManus states this in his inimitable way when he echoes Ernest Shackleton’s alleged advertisement for a crew:

‘Heroes wanted for an epic quest to hack the universe.  Starting with Earth.  Safe return doubtful.’*^

(*From Martin Bhaskar’s Curation.)
(**From Elle Luna’s The Crossroads of Should and Must.)
(^Brian Eno, quoted in Tim Harford’s Messy.)
(^^From Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi’s Flow.)
(*^From Alex McManus’ Makers of Fire.)

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