“Conversation is a meeting of minds with different memories and habits. When minds meet they don’t just exchange facts; They transform them, reshape them, draw different conclusions from them, engage in new trains of thought. Conversation doesn’t just reshuffle the cards, it creates new cards.”
— Theodore Zeldin, An Intimate History of Humanity
Speaking of creating new cards…
We finally got to play One Thousand Blank White Cards last night. There were seven players — a UHCL futures student named Kelly, and her tag-along friend named Jeanette, fellow bloggers Gerry, Angela, and James, my friend from work Cindy and her son, Rhys.
At first we started out awkwardly, thrashing about in a “now how do we do this?” mode. I had to resist the urge to jump in and give direction to soothe the discomfort about the uncertain rules. The group started to norm by suggesting rule modifications and things to do, glancing at me to see if I’d “allow” them. I kept insisting that anything goes. (Except for modifying others’ cards. That was the one rule I laid down.) Soon people were getting into it, trying things they wanted to do and not looking to me for approval. So sitting back and letting things work themselves out, as uncomfortable as it seemed at first, paid off. We formed a groove of sorts and had fun the whole two hours.
We kicked off the night by creating a bunch of cards. We needed a deck to start with, so we each sat and worked individually on a dozen or so cards each. It was interesting to see how the group energy played out in that phase. It was a burst that ran down slowly. People drawing and scribbling furiously, then stopping every once in a while to look up in thoughtful poses before putting nose to the cards again. Eventually, the energy ran down and people were done drawing and were ready to play.
Then there was a period of just picking and playing cards just to see what was in the deck. Not many new cards were created at that time. I, for one, wanted to see what clever creations everybody else had made. And, I have to admit, I wanted to see what reactions people had to my cards.
Soon, though, the play and subsequent conversation sparked further creativity. Someone would make a remark and one or two people would grab a blank card and start writing. It was clear that the creative energy was a sustained growth rather than the burst and fade we started out with.
We started with a deck of about sixty cards. We ended the game with over two hundred. It was the Conversation, organized around the structure of a card game, that inspired our creativity.
Socrates introduced the idea that you are smarter in dialogue with others than you are by yourself. His Socratic Method was intended to draw out insights and intelligence through dialogue organized around a structure of asking questions. We did the same thing in a way. We started off with a flurry of individual creativity until we all were spent. But we drew out ideas and creativity from each other as a group that we did not have as individuals.
Conversation makes you smarter. Conversation makes you more creative. And if the above-quoted Theodore Zeldin is to be believed, Conversation makes you sexier as well.
We didn’t just reshuffle the cards, we made new cards. And we became smarter, more creative, and sexier in the process. Woo hoo. We need more of that.
And so I announced last night as the first in a series of monthly “Creative Conversations.” Getting people together who don’t normally interact, talking about stuff they don’t normally talk about, organized around an activity or structure that is novel or unusual. All for the purpose of becoming smarter, more creative, and sexier together than we could ever be by ourselves.
This is that creative social outlet I was talking about earlier — a birthday gift to myself. Happy Birthday Week to me!
I can only hope that it will be a gift to a few others as well.