The Box vs The Toy

Saturday, March 20, 2010

I was listening to a TEDtalk on creativity & play, and Tim Brown brought up an interesting scene: the box vs. the toy. At Christmas, kids tend to play more with the boxes than the toys inside them. I know I did, and the reason is exploration. Kids are more engaged with open possibilities and the box has more potential for the imagination than a toy, which has a very specific use. It also made me think of Le Petit Prince:

"If you please-- draw me a sheep..."
When a mystery is too overpowering, one dare not disobey. Absurd as it might seem to me, a thousand miles from any human habitation and in danger of death, I took out of my pocket a sheet of paper and my fountain-pen. But then I remembered how my studies had been concentrated on geography, history, arithmetic, and grammar, and I told the little chap (a little crossly, too) that I did not know how to draw. He answered me:
"That doesn't matter. Draw me a sheep..."
But I had never drawn a sheep. So I drew for him one of the two pictures I had drawn so often. It was that of the boa constrictor from the outside. And I was astounded to hear the little fellow greet it with,
"No, no, no! I do not want an elephant inside a boa constrictor. A boa constrictor is a very dangerous creature, and an elephant is very cumbersome. Where I live, everything is very small. What I need is a sheep. Draw me a sheep."
sheep-1So then I made a drawing. He looked at it carefully, then he said:
"No. This sheep is already very sickly. Make me another."
So I made another drawing.
My friend smiled gently and indulgenty.
"You see yourself," he said, "that this is not a sheep. This is a ram. It has horns." So then I did my drawing over once more.
But it was rejected too, just like the others.
sheep-3"This one is too old. I want a sheep that will live a long time."
By this time my patience was exhausted, because I was in a hurry to start taking my engine apart. So I tossed off this drawing.
And I threw out an explanation with it.
box"This is only his box. The sheep you asked for is inside."
I was very surprised to see a light break over the face of my young judge:
"That is exactly the way I wanted it!"

Growing up and even until college, I very much resented being poor. I remember my first painting consisted of washable kindergarten paint, cheap craft acrylic, fabric puff paint & marker. My parents couldn't afford art classes or art camp, so I watched Bob Ross & Big A on channel 9 (PBS). We didn't have money to go out or go on vacations, so I spent my days indoors cutting from magazines for collages, "painting" the walls with a dry paint brush (which I later figured out was a trick to get me to dust... child labor!!), watching & pausing Disney movies on VHS to draw the different frames. I did the most I could from the little scraps of creativity around the house, but that most equated to a lot. I spent a significant amount of my childhood having to play with a box rather than a toy, not to say I didn't manage to get an NES for Christmas one year... that's one box I really loved haha! Anyway, eventually I came to realize what I once thought was a disadvantage (especially after going to USC where the rich kiddies can afford every head start) was quite the advantage.

There's the saying "think out side the box" (or bun [wah wah]). But really, there's nothing wrong with thinking within it. It'd probably do you & your imagination some good.

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