The name of this blog, Rainbow Juice, is intentional.
The rainbow signifies unity from diversity. It is holistic. The arch suggests the idea of looking at the over-arching concepts: the big picture. To create a rainbow requires air, fire (the sun) and water (raindrops) and us to see it from the earth.
Juice suggests an extract; hence rainbow juice is extracting the elements from the rainbow, translating them and making them accessible to us. Juice also refreshes us and here it symbolises our nutritional quest for understanding, compassion and enlightenment.

Tuesday 25 October 2016

Creating Creativity (Part 2 of 2)

In last weeks blog I looked at some of the blocks and hindrances that impede our individual and collective creativity.  This week I offer a few techniques for harnessing and encouraging our creativity.

Be Curious and Keep Questioning

Last week I began with a quote from Albert Einstein.  I’ll begin this week with another from him:
“The important thing is to not stop questioning.  Curiosity has its own reason for existing.”
As children we constantly asked questions: “Why is the sky blue?” “Why does grandad use a walking stick?” “Why do I have to go in the car?” Indeed, by the age of 4 we are asking around 300 questions each and every day. Between two and five years of age most children will have asked 40,000 questions.

But then, during our elementary, or primary, school years we stop asking questions. Our education system teaches us that answers are more important than questions, so we are discouraged from asking questions.

Research indicates that being curious stimulates and strengthens the brain. As it is for muscles, the more we use the brain the healthier it remains.  And that is excellent news for developing our creative powers.  When we exercise our curiosity we obtain the following three benefits as well:
  • We are motivated to learn and we become better learners.
  • Our personal growth is stimulated and the connections we make with people is deepened when we first meet them. 
  • Our sense of personal meaning and purpose in life is heightened when we are curious. There is always something new to explore, discover, or learn.
Inner Listening

We know it is important to learn and develop our skills for listening to other people.  To harness our creativity learning to listen to our inner voice is also important – we call it our intuition.  It is worth noting that intuition is not a magical process whereby an idea or answer just pops into our head out of nowhere.  Intuition is literally learning from within: in-tuition.  Intuition is “nothing more and nothing less than re-cognition” according to the psychologist Herbert A Simon.

How do we develop our intuition? Most writers on the topic seem to agree that there are four barriers that we need to overcome:
  1. Declutter your mind. Tapping into your inner wisdom is difficult if there is a lot of clutter in the way. You will find your own way to declutter; some ways are to go for a walk, get into nature, listen to music or meditate. Perhaps a shower.  Have you noticed how often you’ll get a good idea in the shower? It’s surprisingly common.1  Whatever you do, you need to give your mind freedom.
  2. Ignore what you know.  Intuition deals more with feelings, insights and emotions than it does with facts and figures.  This does not mean that you reject the facts and figures, just put them aside and ask yourself how you feel about the question, issue or problem?  How is your body responding?
  3. Get out of your head.  Go with your gut.   Often we get a “gut feeling” before our brain takes over and becomes the “knower.” Get in tune with your gut. Do your stomach muscles contract and tighten or do they relax?  Does your heart and chest feel as if it is expanding?
  4. Let go the need to control.  Our rational mind tells us that we should be in control at all times.  However, when we wish to tap into our intuition we need to surrender this desire, and trust that our intuition will provide us with insights without our need to dictate what those insights might be.

Anyone who has attended a Playback Theatre performance (or watched the TV show Whose Line Is It Anyway?) will have roared with laughter at the antics of the actors as they act out, without pre-prepared scripts, scenes, situations and scenarios from the random suggestions of the audience.  Those of us in the audience marvel at the ingenuity, spontaneity, and creativity the actors bring to the performance.  How do they do it, we may ask?

Can we adopt the ideas of improvisation (Improv as it has come to be known) for our own explorations of creativity?  The answer, according to at least one Improv teacher and writer is a resounding “yes.”  Improv, says Patricia Ryan Madson, is based on 13 very simple maxims.2
  1. Say Yes.  Saying yes means being open to what is happening, going with the flow, being open to the opportunities that arise.  Saying yes builds on the ideas already in existence.  Saying no, on the other hand, can be a desire to control the flow, which then leads to everyone being stifled.
  2. Don’t Prepare.  Too much planning can block being in the present; it can distract from listening to others.
  3. Just Show Up.  Just be there, make the effort.  Woody Allen is reputed to have remarked that “eighty percent of success is showing up.”
  4. Start Anywhere.  We can lose focus, energy, or time by trying to figure out where to start.  Indeed, worrying about where to start can lead to never starting at all.
  5. Be Average.  There is no need to strive for perfection (it’s not possible anyway), just be natural.  Bring who you are to the situation, not who you think you ought to be.
  6. Pay Attention.  Although being aware of your own thoughts, ideas and feelings is helpful, being overly focused on them can mean missing the opportunities that are offered by other people or the situation.
  7. Face The Facts.  Worrying about the future is pointless, so too is agonising over the past.  Mark Twain, with characteristic wit, noted that, “Some of the worst things in my life never happened.”  Things may not be ideal but they are what they are.
  8. Stay The Course.  Keep with it.  Keep in mind the purpose, not what you are doing or even the goal.  The purpose of meeting with someone, or acting with others, is far more important than the goal you have set yourself.  How many times have we heard the phrase “life's higher purpose” and then forgotten it to think about our immediate goals?
  9. Wake Up To The Gifts.  Opportunities are everywhere, be open to them.
  10. Make Mistakes, Please.  Last weeks blog noted how the fear of failure can block creativity.  But be wary: this is not a excuse for slipshoddiness.
  11. Act Now.  This maxim focuses on acting, not doing.  Sometimes the best action may be doing nothing, or simply observing.
  12. Take Care Of Each Other.  Share and share alike.
  13. Enjoy The Ride.  Not everything is fun, but we can still enjoy the moment, the situation, the company, for what it is.  When we come from a place within us that is joyful, then almost any situation is tolerable.  We cannot have excitement in our lives all the time, but we can enliven our lives.
Finally, a note about what sort of creativity is needed.  There is much technical innovation in the world today, our rate of technological change is increasing rapidly.  But technological innovation is not the sort of new thinking that Einstein was talking about 70 years ago.  He was talking about a radically different type of thinking.  He was talking about a thinking and creativity that went more to the heart of who we are – not increasing the machinery with which we do things.  I’ll leave it to you to think about that – creatively.

1.  Research by the German bathroom and kitchen fixtures company Hansgrohe SE, in 2014, found that 72% of 4,000 people surveyed from 8 countries reported new insights whilst standing in a shower. Scott Barry Kaufman Ph.D. (the researcher) comments that “It’s both surprising and fascinating to learn that people are more creative in the shower than they are at work, with Hansgrohe’s findings reinforcing existing research on the importance of relaxation for creative thinking.”

2.  Patricia Ryan Madson, Improv Wisdom: Don’t Prepare, Just show up, Bell Tower, New York, 2005

Monday 17 October 2016

Creating Creativity (Part 1 of 2)

Albert Einstein is credited with one of the most oft quoted sayings in the world.  I will quote it again here, although it appears that Einstein didn’t actually use the words the way they are quoted:1
“We can’t solve problems using the same thinking we used when we created them”
These words have become more and more critical as the years and decades have passed.  The telegram from which they have been abstracted was sent seventy years ago at the height of nuclear tensions.  We still live with the threat of nuclear terror.  Additionally we face new issues, problems and concerns: environmental degradation, rising inequality, terrorism, refugee crises, climate change, rapid urbanisation to name but a few.  What is more is that all these are interconnected and the world is becoming increasingly complex.

We are still using the same thinking that Einstein and the others of his committee referred to in 1946.
We must think differently.  We must think creatively.

Perhaps enabling citizens and communities to recognise their collective creativity is one of the most fundamental tasks that a community worker can undertake.  If we critically appraise the roles that our world leaders take on we must conclude that acting creatively is not one of them.  It is up to us.  The creative opportunities arise from the bottom, not from the top.  Creative opportunities can be found on the margins, not from central decree.

Those working from an empowerment model, or a strengths based model can help to create creativity.  We can help people see the blocks to their own creativity and we can offer tools and techniques to help strengthen the creativity that is already there.  This blog piece (Part 1) will address a couple of the common creativity blocks and hindrances.  Next week, Part 2, will look at some tools and techniques for fostering creativity.

Left Brain – Right Brain Myth

One of the biggest blocks to creativity is the belief that creativity applies only to artists, musicians, potters, writers, dancers, actors or other such people.  We all have creative potential.  The notion of the left brain-right brain duality has sadly contributed to this cultural myth.  And it is just that – a myth.  Our brains are actually a lot more complex than the simple dualism of right brain – left brain that much of popular psychology has led us to believe.  Indeed, activities like creativity (and rationality for that matter) are more whole-brain activities. 

In the 1960s scientists cut the structure (corpus callosum) that connects the left and right brains of epilepsy sufferers in an attempt to cure them.  They then looked at what sides of the brain were involved in language, maths, drawing etc., and found that one side was more likely to be involved in some functions than the other.  Popular psychology took this to mean that we are all either left brain dominant or right brain dominant.  But this failed to recognise that the experiments were with unconnected brain hemisphere, and neuroscientists have never held to the left-right brain myth.  In 2013 researchers at the University of Utah studied the connected brains of more than 1,000 people and found that,2
"It is not the case that the left hemisphere is associated with logic or reasoning more than the right, (and that) creativity is no more processed in the right hemisphere than the left."
Our culture, unfortunately, would rather we considered ourselves as consumers or producers, rather than as creators.  The first step towards taking back our creative power is to break down the myths and stereotypes.

Fear of Failure

A further hindrance in our creativity is our fear of failure.  In fact, fear of failure has it’s own word – atichyphobia.  Symptoms of atichyphobia can include; a reluctance to try anything new, anxiety, a low sense of worth, or perfectionism (whereby we are willing to do only those things that we know we can succeed at).  But we know from a number of historical episodes that failure can often lead to great success.  Here are just two such cases:

Thomas Edison, the inventor of the light bulb, reputedly tried 1,000 different filaments for his light bulb, none of which worked. The story goes that a journalist queried him on this and asked why he didn’t give up after 1,000 failures. Edison famously replied “I haven’t failed 1,000 times, I’ve just proven 1,000 ways in which it doesn’t work.”

Michael Jordan is credited with being the greatest basketballers to have ever lived. Here is what he had to say about failure and success:
“I have missed more than 9,000 shots in my career. I have lost almost 300 games. On 26 occasions I have been entrusted to take the game winning shot, and I missed. I have failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.”
When it comes to collective creativity there are some further blocks that get placed in the way, amongst them:
  • A desire to conform to group norms.  If group members prize harmony over encouraging their fellows to offer differing opinions, then creativity can be hard to come by.
  • Some groups may have no history or experience with working together and so a collaborative approach becomes difficult to achieve.  It may be that members are used to a competitive culture and so will be suspicious of a more cooperative style.
  • If the working patterns amongst members is one of making judgments, being critical or constant evaluation, then the openness and transparency required for creativity will be elusive.
  • Some group members are more inclined towards the introversion end of the spectrum and so if those of an extroverted persuasion become more dominant in the group, then those who are more introspective or tentative about sharing their views will tend to switch off and not offer their ideas or insights.
Next weeks blog piece will look at some of the tools and techniques for fostering our creativity.

1.Einstein was the Chairman of the Emergency Committee of Atomic Scientists who sent a telegram to hundreds of prominent Americans in May 1946, in which the following phrase was used: “…a new type of thinking is essential if mankind is to survive and move toward higher levels.” This telegram came in the wake of the dropping of the atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki and at a time of heightened nuclear tensions.  Somehow that extract from the telegram came to be attributed to Einstein himself and re-formatted to the quotation about not being able to solve problems with the same thinking that created them.  Certainly, when Einstein was interviewed a few months later he reiterated the quote from the telegram and said to the interviewer (Michael Amrine) “We must abandon competition and secure cooperation.”

2. Nielsen JA, Zielinski BA, Ferguson MA, Lainhart JE, Anderson JS (2013) An Evaluation of the Left-Brain vs. Right-Brain Hypothesis with Resting State Functional Connectivity Magnetic Resonance Imaging. PLoS ONE 8(8): e71275. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0071275

Tuesday 11 October 2016

Evidence for the Machine

Last week’s blog post introduced the metaphor of a machine heading towards disaster, with the passengers unaware or unwilling to see the direction in which the machine is travelling.  The fuel for the machine in this metaphor is suggested to be our collective consumerism. 

The machine is a metaphor and hardly an original one.  Like many metaphors the story was devoid of evidence and research.  This week’s blog post provides some of the evidence and research that gives credence to the metaphor. 

  • The size of homes in the US grew by 55% since 1970, yet the number of people living in them reduced by 13%.  Source: Clive Hamilton, Requiem For A Species, Allen & Unwin, Crows nest, NSW, Australia, 2010.
  • Meat consumption per capita has tripled since 1961 and is now significantly disrupting the global nitrogen cycle.  Source: Emily Matthews & Allen Hammond, Critical Consumption Trends and Implications, World Resources Institute, 1999.
  • Since 1960 more than 1/5 of the world’s tropical forest cover has been removed.  Ibid
  • Globally we consume 50% more of the earth’s resources than the earth has the capacity to restore.  Unsurprisingly, this consumption pattern is unequally distributed, with some nations consuming at a rate 400% greater than the earth can provide.  I’ll leave you to guess which nations these may be.  Source: Ecological Footprint Atlas, Global Footprint Network.
  • Following the end of World War II the world’s consumption of oil grew rapidly from around 5 million barrels per day to over 65 million barrels per day in 1980.  A slump during the early 80s saw it drop to under 6o million barrels, but it has been steadily increasing since to around 80 million barrels per day.  Source: Richard Heinberg, The End of Growth, New Society Publishers, Gabriola Island, BC, Canada, 2011. 
  • During the first decade of the 21st century the cost of oil discovery has tripled.  Source: Heinberg, ibid
  • Simple mathematics tells us that consumerism and the associated economic growth cannot continue indefinitely.  Those with a mathematical understanding will know this.   It is called an asymptote – a limit beyond which exponential growth cannot go.
  • Australians spend $10.5 billion each year on goods that are never used.  Source: Hamilton, op cit
  • Approximately 1/3 of food is lost or wasted each year – 1.3 billion tons per year.  Source: Jenny Gustovsson, Christel Cederberg & Ulf Sonesson, Global Food Losses and Food Waste, Swedish Institute for Food and Biotechnology, Gothenburg, 2011.
  • Consumers in Europe and North America waste 95-115 kg of food waste per person per year.  Meanwhile, per capita food waste in Sub-Saharan Africa and SE Asia is 6-11 kg per year.  Source: ibid
  • Between 2000 and 2010 the amount of municipal solid waste generated per capita by urban dwellers doubled (from 0.64 kg/person/day to 1.2 kg).  The waste is expected to triple by 2025.  Source: Daniel Hoornweg & Perinaz Bhada-Tata, What a Waste, Urban Development Series, World Bank
  • The amount of unwanted (waste) goods is indicated by the rise in the self-storage industry.  In the US this rose by 81% between 1998 and 2006 and 10% in Australia.  In the UK it rose by 35% per year during these boom years.  Source: Hamilton, op cit.
  • Inequality in the US has increased significantly since 1980, and is now higher than it was during the 1930/40s.  The top 1% in the US have 20% of the total income.  Similar trends exist in the UK, Canada and Australia.  Source: Thomas Piketty, Capital, in the Twenty-First Century, Belknap Press, 2014.
  • From 1980 – 2008 the top 1% gained over 40% of the total growth in the period in the US, and more than 20% in Australia and the UK.  Source: The (Australian) Age, October 10, 2013.
  • Global inequality rose between 1980 and 2002 with the Gini coefficient1 rising from 65.7 to 70.7 in that period.  Source: Isabel Ortiz & Matthew Cummins, Global Inequality: Beyond the Bottom Million, UNICEF, 2011.
  • Within the OECD 17 (of 22) countries experienced increased inequality between 1985 – 2008.  Only two nations (Turkey and Greece) had  a decrease in inequality in that same period.  Source: Divided We Stand, OECD, 2011.
  • The richest 1% in the world have more wealth than the rest of the world combined.  Source: Oxfam Briefing Paper, 18 January 2016, citing Credit Suisse, Global Wealth Databook, 2015.
  • “The real income (adjusted for inflation) of most Americans today is lower than it was almost a decade and a half ago, in 1979.”  Source: Joseph Stiglitz in an interview with Cullen Murphy, 5 June 2012.  Joseph Stiglitz has been the Chief Economist with the World Bank, Professor of Finance and Economics at Columbia University, and won the Nobel Prize for Economics in 2001.
  • Four in every ten Australians feel anxious, guilty, or depressed about the amount of clutter in their homes.  Source: Josh Fear, Stuff Happens, Australia Institute, Research Paper No. 52, January 2008.
  • Ill health and social problems occur more frequently amongst societies with greater levels of inequality.  Higher levels of inequality correspond to: greater feelings of distrust, higher levels of mental illness, lower life expectancy, greater rates of infant mortality, more obesity, lower educational performance, higher levels of teenage pregnancy, greater homicide rate, higher imprisonment rates, and lower social mobility.  Source: Richard Wilkinson & Kate Pickett, The Spirit Level, Penguin Books, London, 2010.  Wilkinson and Pickett are epidemiologists at UK universities.
  • The most affluent in high inequality US counties die at a greater rate (912/100,000) than do the poorest (883/100,000) in counties with low inequality levels.  Read that again.  The mortality rate amongst the richest in high inequality counties is higher than it is for the poorest in low inequality counties.  Source: Stephen Bezruchka (University of Washington), Income Inequality and Mortality in US Counties, American Journal of Public Health, January 2002.
  • Greater environmental degradation is correlated with higher levels of social inequality.  Source: Jaqueline Haupt & Carmen Lawrence, Unexpected connections: Income Inequality and environmental degradation. University of Western Australia, February 2012.
  • The number of reported disasters per decade have increased almost five-fold from 1971-80 (743) to 2001-10 (3,496).  Disasters include floods, drought, storms, wildfires and extreme temperature.  Source: World Meteorological Association.
  • The World Health Organisation (WHO) estimates that 150,000 people are killed annually from climate change effects.  Sadly, most of these deaths are in poor countries where the infrastructure to deal with climate change effects are minimal.  These are also the countries who have contributed the least to climate change.  Source:  WHO: World Health Report, 2005.
It is worth reiterating the theme of last weeks blog:  It is time to question the machine.


1.  The Gini Coefficient is an internationally recognised measure of equality/inequality, with 100.00 representing absolute inequality, and 0.00 suggesting total equality.

Tuesday 4 October 2016

Time to Question the Machine

The economic growth machine has been chugging along for a century or two now.  Following World War II it shifted up a gear and went global.  Now, it’s speeding along on the course designed by it’s makers.  Many of us are on board enjoying the ride.

Many thousands more do not have enough to buy a ticket, whilst some have been thrown off the machine by the conductors.  Yet, the machine keeps whistling along the path that the captains of business and their political lieutenants are keen on having us travel.

Meanwhile, on board we enjoy the ride because it offers us the baubles of success, fame, luxury and leisure.  We happily consume these.  They occupy our time so that we don’t have to look out the front of the machine to see where we are going.  If we did, we might take fright, for on the horizon there is a gaping chasm into which the machine is bound to tumble if we continue in that direction.

What is it that is powering this machine?  Our consumerism.  Our affluence.  Our greed.  Although most of us would not recognise, let alone acknowledge, that it is our greed that fuels this juggernaut.  We have been manipulated.  The captains of industry and their marketing sergeants have prodded at our fears and greed, and at our hopes and desires with a message that says “if you buy then you will gain happiness.”

Indeed, they have been quite blatant about this.  Not long after the end of the second world war Victor Lebow (a corporate director, co-chair of the Economics of Distribution at Columbia University, and a writer) was declaring that,1
“Our enormously productive economy demands that we make consumption our way of life, that we convert the buying and use of goods into rituals, that we seek our spiritual satisfactions, our ego satisfactions, in consumption. The measure of social status, of social acceptance, of prestige, is now to be found in our consumptive patterns. The very meaning and significance of our lives today expressed in consumptive terms. The greater the pressures upon the individual to conform to safe and accepted social standards, the more does he tend to express his aspirations and his individuality in terms of what he wears, drives, eats- his home, his car, his pattern of food serving, his hobbies.”
In order to make this happen, Lebow exhorted his corporate colleagues that,
“We need things consumed, burned up, worn out, replaced, and discarded at an ever increasing pace. We need to have people eat, drink, dress, ride, live, with ever more complicated and, therefore, constantly more expensive consumption.”
They have been doing it ever since, getting better and better at it.  More and more cunning and devious.  This century the marketers have managed to shift consumption beyond that of social status and meaning.  In the past decade or two they have managed to imbue consumption with our self identity. 

They’ve got us.  We are now trapped.  We go out and buy in order to build our sense of self, to find our identity in a corporate logo worn by our favourite pop singer or sports star.  Then within days (or sometimes even hours) we become dissatisfied.  There is no self-hood in what we have just bought.  We stop using it, we throw it away.  Then what do we do?  Go and buy something else to fill the void in our lives – exactly as Lebow and his colleagues would have us do.

All of this continual buying, discarding, consuming, buying more, discarding more is fuelling that runaway machine.

It’s time that we, the passengers, began to question the machine.  We need to question not just the direction, but the machine itself.  We need to also question the fuel – our own sense of who we are.  If we do that, we might just find that by opting off the machine we find the satisfaction that we really desire.  We may find that our self identity and our satisfaction is found in quietly and simply wandering in the vast earthly realm, well away from the consumerist machine. 

So let us question the machine.


1. Victor Lebow in Journal of Retailing. Spring 1955.