Originality: Sir Ken Robinson, W.B. Yeats and Sir Elton John

Sir Ken Robinson and I share many things in common, particularly with respect to viewing the crisis of education. There is a great need for our society to be filled with more people who love what they do and less people who just go through the motions, a shift that may be facilitated by moving away from thinking of education as being like an industrial process – that Ken likens to the “fast food approach” – and more like an organic, bespoke, Zagat or Michelin context for an individual to experience the conditions for them to flourish.

He ends his presentation at TED earlier this year with these words from W.B. Yeats:

Had I the heavens’ embroidered cloths,
Enwrought with golden and silver light,
The blue and the dim and the dark cloths
Of night and light and the half light,
I would spread the cloths under your feet:
But I, being poor, have only my dreams;
I have spread my dreams under your feet;
Tread softly because you tread on my dreams.

As I watched Ken reading, I couldn’t help but think of Elton John’s Your Song, a song that the late John Lennon described as “the first new thing that’s happened since we happened”. Just in case you don’t remember the lyrics, here are the first two verses:

It’s a little bit funny this feeling inside
I’m not one of those who can easily hide
I don’t have much money but boy if I did
I’d buy a big house where we both could live

If I was a sculptor, but then again, no
Or a man who makes potions in a travelling show
I know it’s not much but it’s the best I can do
My gift is my song and this one’s for you

So was Your Song original? Or did Elton read a little Yeats to Bernie one night before bed after a few bottles of wine, and have Bernie wake up the next morning with a flash of “inspiration”?

Perhaps Elton and Bernie have acknowledged the inspiration of Yeats in the past or perhaps the connection is only tenuous. Or maybe they came to this idea independently. Even if the ‘idea’ was from Yeats or even someone else, it was Sir Elton John that brought such a sentiment to the world in a form that we could embrace, love and enjoy today.

Creativity is sometimes strikingly divergent from the status quo. Sometimes it is a refinement. Other times, creativity might be more like a renaissance – a rebirth of older ideas so that they can find new life for another generation. This leaves the challenge for us to cultivate those conditions and contexts where those around us can find a way to express their uniqueness. And where we can express our own uniqueness.

Here is Sir Ken Robinson’s presentation at TED from earlier this year. I hope you enjoy it.

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