You know how if someone asks you what a strawberry tastes like you can’t say because it only tastes like itself? The performance team Blue Man Group is equally unique.
After watching their show, I left the theater feeling anything was possible. So often we think that our creative ideas are impractical, uninteresting to others, or simply not that good. In the spirit of Bob Newhart’s tobacco sketch, here’s a possible description that Blue Man Group gave when first trying to sell their act:
“We’ll shave our heads and put solid blue makeup all over them. We’ll play drums covered with paint and put strange things in our mouths, chew them up, and spit them out. And it will be funny. Oh, and we won’t talk.”
They may have bankrolled the first few shows themselves.
I once heard a talk by a psychologist who explained how, because of the way our brains work, we can’t picture something we haven’t built any neural pathways for. After saying the word “apple” and asking everyone in the room to get a mental picture of it, she flashed up a slide showing a red apple, a green apple, and the current Apple logo and asked how many people had pictured each one. A third to half of the room raised their hands for the Apple logo. She pointed out that in 1980, that result wasn’t possible because the current apple logo didn’t exist.
Yet that’s what we do when we create—we picture things that have never been before. They might take flight from past events and experiences—certainly apples preceded Apple—or other people’s creations, but that doesn’t mean they’re not new. And they can transform the way we see things, even change what our language means.
As someone who sometimes doubts her own ability to change, I find that tremendously exciting, and I’m grateful to Blue Man Group for the brilliant reminder and for the laughs.
In keeping with the National Poetry Month theme, here is a poem by the fourteenth-century Sufi master Hafiz that I think speaks to the same topic.
We Have Not Come to Take Prisoners
We have not come here to take prisoners
But to surrender ever more deeply
To freedom and joy.
We have not come into this exquisite world
To hold ourselves hostage from love.
Run my dear,
That may not strengthen
Your precious budding wings.
Run like hell my dear,
From anyone likely
To put a sharp knife
Into the sacred, tender vision
Of your beautiful heart.
We have a duty to befriend
Those aspects of obedience
That stand outside of our house
And shout to our reason
“O please, O please,
Come out and play.”
For we have not come here to take prisoners
Or to confine our wondrous spirits,
But to experience ever and ever more deeply
Our divine courage, freedom, and
From The Gift, translated by Daniel Ladinsky