So, not a whinge but a suggestion. It's a suggestion to myself, to you and to anyone who will listen.
Whether you celebrate Christmas or not, and however you celebrate it if you do, and however you spend that UK-wide suspension of normal activity otherwise known as the "holidays", let's carve out some thinking time. Because if we starve our brain and soul of thinking time, I think we have a problem.
You know the William Henry Davies poem, or at least the start of it. Interestingly, I started quoting it to the audience of teachers at a school in India where I was doing an INSET recently and they all joined in.
What is this life if, full of care,
We have no time to stand and stare.
No time to stand beneath the boughs
And stare as long as sheep or cows.
No time to see, when woods we pass,
Where squirrels hide their nuts in grass.
No time to see, in broad daylight,
Streams full of stars, like skies at night.
No time to turn at Beauty's glance,
And watch her feet, how they can dance.
No time to wait till her mouth can
Enrich that smile her eyes began.
A poor life this if, full of care,
We have no time to stand and stare.
I don't make time to stand and stare. My life is the poorer for it. I think my creativity is the poorer for it because we can't create if we can't think. (Well, I can't.) I believe many of us have engineered lives of rush and zip and itch and skim and that we have made ourselves breathless and dizzy and somewhat robotic, reactive, task-focused, target-obsessed. My life is driven not by creation now but by cortisol. I suspect it's the same for everyone who is wedded (as I am) to smartphones etc and constant digital distractions.
Freedom to Think. This is author Jonathan Stroud's great campaign to get adults to allow children just to mooch and play freely without organised activity. I support it fully and will be talking to teachers and parents about it in INSET days. But I think we all need it.
And so my suggestion is this: allow yourselves and your families and whoever you're with the freedom to think. During the holiday period, snatch what empty times you can and fill them only with frippery and freethinking and fresh air, with nonsense or nothing. Turn off your devices - are you listening, Nicola Morgan? - and switch into another operating system, where we are not (over-)reacting to and seeking out information from a noisy outside world but letting our brains freewheel.
Although I'm suggesting we make time for our offline world, if you have some ideas or want to tell the campaign what freedoms you or your families or friends enjoyed this holiday (or whenever), there's a space to do that here. Or anyone can email ideas, photos, suggestions to: firstname.lastname@example.org. And on Twitter they are @iamfree2think
Here are my own small ideas, the things I plan to do to give myself Freedom to Think:
- Get outside just to get outside. On my own, to look at trees, breathe the mist and smell Christmas, because I do love a good Christmas air.
- Have a bath and not take my ipad in with me. Watch the bubbles.
- If it snows, I'm going to build a snow penguin. Hell, yes I am! There may be pictures.
- I might play with words. Maybe some little poems will come. Perhaps a haiku or two. Perhaps
(Copyright © Chris Riddell 2015)
- I'm going to draw. Just a little bit. I used to draw. I used to sell my artwork.
- Most importantly, there will be times when I just do nothing but stand and stare. And think. And not think about the conference I'm organising, the committee I chair, the house move, the book contract I'm behind on, the events I have to plan, the foreign trips that loom. Just think.
The point is that if we fill children's time with classes and activities and we fill our own time with work and admin and domestic tasks, we lose something very human.
Our lives are poorer if, full of care, we have no time to stand and stare.
Have a very lovely holiday time, everyone, and remember to focus on the important things: love, freedom, health and humanity. See you on the other side and here's to a very positive and fulfilling 2016 with as much freedom to think as we possibly can! xxx