Oblique Strategies (Over 100 Worthwhile Dilemmas) are a plane-Jane/ quirky deck of cards invented by Brian Eno and Peter Schmidt in the 1970s to encourage artists (in particular, musicians and composers) to break through writer’s block and to encourage “lateral thinking” (lateral thinking uses non-obvious, intuitive or creative, non-linear thinking to solve problems). Oracular guidance in general is really good at promoting “lateral thinking” and no more so than with this week’s cheeky advice from the Oblique Strategies deck. The card that popped out was, “Emphasize the Flaws” and it DEFINITELY didn’t mesh with my rattled, more-linear-than-usual mindset this week. Personally, this is a time of flaws ( aches and pains, house maintenance issues straight of a monopoly game and niggling things to take care of and work on) EMPHASIZING flaws has never been something I like to do. Fix them? Yes. Embrace them… not always. Being someone who always wants to improve, refine and better things, flaws are the “enemy.” And yet this guidance makes perfect sense. Sometimes we have to embrace or even emphasize and really delve into a flaw in order to work with it or find a creative solution to a problem. After all, isn’t a flaw just a matter of perception? A friend of mine from Austria uses some very peculiar grammar… in my eyes, her English isn’t flawed, it’s just full of character and my eyes dance over the mistakes in her non-Native language and I only see the meaning and intelligent heart that she has.
“Emphasize the Flaws” made me think of this wonderful T.E.D. Talk by artist Phil Hansen (click on this link or view it below) who develops a tremor in his hands from repetitive stippling in pointillism (having created a huge picture using only dots, I know the ravages such an activity could produce if someone did it all the time). In the talk, he describes how he stops trying to thwart the FLAW and embraces it and even emphasizes it to create a whole new result. If you have a few minutes, it’s definitely worth a view and it might transform how you view a “flaw”
This week, we’re guided to play up flaws, to discover the purpose or rerouting opportunity that a flaw or challenge brings. By focusing on it, instead of trying to mask, avoid or deny it might work out better than trying to hide it. Let flaws be something to inspire continued work and creativity instead of a stop sign. If you keep trying to hide, defeat and battle a flaw or challenge, you might continue to drain your energy away. A creative approach could allow you to embrace the “flaw” and transcend it.
The picture for this blog is not the card (they’re just typed up business cards)… it’s just the phrase from the card on a backdrop of snow-flakes that I took a picture of sitting prettily on my windshield one night. Snowflakes seem to be tiny, crystalline works of art in perfect hexagonal symmetry. But you know what? Sometimes those little, perfectly delicate, and astoundingly beautiful flakes get knocked around a little bit in the atmosphere and many snowflakes, believe it or not, are visibly IRREGULAR. Nothing perfect is perfect without a little tilt in our imagination, a take-away from our belief, the inspiration of our dreaming mind and nothing flawed is truly a flaw until we believe it is so. Are you holding life (or yourself) up to an image of perfection that is unnecessary? Things might be a heck of a lot more awesome than they seem to be if you give your lateral-thinking muscles an extra work out or two this week.
PS. One last thing occurs to me with this week’s guidance…. and that’s a wisdom that my grandma imparted and it might be a good reminder since March’s critical-thinking energies are flying high: if you’re really invested in criticizing another person… chances are you’re highlighting your OWN flaws, not theirs!
About this deck: Oblique Strategies (Over 100 Worthwhile Dilemmas) by Brian Eno and Peter Schmidt published in several editions since 1975. (also available online and on iPhone Android) — And yes, it’s that Brian Eno — the experimental musician, composure, producer, artist who has worked with Coldplay, Paul Simon, Grace Jones, David Bowie, David Byrne, U2, Talking Heads and many more. Peter Schmidt was an influential British painter/multi-media artist who was tremendously influential and worked with other musicians and artists.