Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Creativity and Vision

I have just finished reading a powerful book discussing the art of Peacemaking called The Moral Imagination: The Art and Soul of Building Peace by John Paul Lederach (2005). This book takes an academic approach to the usefulness of artistic and creative processes in the building of peace. It involved a large variety of useful concepts that merit thought and application. But there were two specifically that grabbed me as important in the field of social change, especially in the setting I am in.

The first concept I would like to mention that struck me as powerfully important in viewing the ways in which we as foreigners, with certain goals in mind, approach our work. Our goal should be to avoid "tunnel-vision" (118) at all costs. The word of choice here was "serindipity" (114), a word I will not use because of its complex nature, but the idea was to constantly expect the unexpected. To look peripherally at a problem while maintaining a fixed goal in mind. For me, this equates to understanding the goal, and realizing that the best way to reach that goal is the route that I cannot plan for. In my context this could take many forms, none of which I could explain for precisely the reason they are important... because I have yet to understand them. What is important is that I remember as the "expert" in my context, is that there are hundreds of ways to promote peace, and I must always be ready to listen and step out of the tunnel to find them.

The second idea I wish to share is best described with a quote. "The challenge of the artful connection is how to respect what we create, nurture love for what we do, and bring beauty to what we build, even in the simplest tasks. ...To nurture the artist however does not require becoming whom we are not. The opposite is true. It requires what we pay attention to what already lies within us, within our capacity" (162). This paragraph describing the artist brought me to the heart of what creativity means in the search for peace and justice. Creativity comes from being who we are, but paying attention to the little things about each of us that draws us together. We must allow ourselves to be artists, to be creative in our search for peace; in that creativity we find the unexpected, the new way forward. We are all artists and we can all be peacebuilders, so long as we are not tied down to the formalities of mediation and training methods. Here in Bangladesh this is a risk we run. In trying to develop mediation capabilities in village settings to use in place of the current arbitration system; we risk limiting problem solving to mediation if we do not adequately look for ways to bring out the mediative artists in the community. Those willing to look for a new way, a creative solution, are the real peacebuilders in the community and we need to build this capacity along with any other formal mediation strategies.

As we travel through this river delta of life, there is not one path, but many. Each one is different, yet similarly directed to the sea. In peacebuilding we must not look for the "right" path but for the most scenic and beautiful path to the sea, for that path is the "right" path.


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