Riding the bus to work yesterday morning, I was listening to the music of one of my favourite singer-songwriters, Rose Cousins, and was reminded of the first time I heard music played through a set of headphones.
It was the autumn of 1981. I was 19 years old and travelling around Europe on my own. On a train trip between Oslo and Bergen, Norway, I met a blond-haired, blue-eyed Californian named Scott Yoder who was listening to a cassette recording of Dan Fogelberg’s “The Innocent Age” on his Sony walkman. We struck up a conversation, and Scott offered to let me listen to the music for awhile. I was awestruck by how beautiful it was.
Of course, technology has come a long way since so I doubt if I'd be as impressed by the quality of the sound today as I was back then – but in 1981 Fogelberg’s music as heard through those headphones seemed almost miraculous, and the wonder of that moment has resonated with me ever since.
The memory was perhaps more poignant because the day before I watched a terrific video entitled “Everyday Creativity” by Dewitt Jones, an accomplished free-lance photographer and motivational speaker. In the video, he defines creativity as the ability to look at the ordinary and see the extraordinary. And he goes on to describe his understanding of the creative process and to suggest that it can be applied in all areas of one’s personal and professional life.
A key aspect of the creative process, Jones says, is simply to pay attention and change perspectives often so that we are more likely to recognize the extraordinary that is all around us. I'd put it another way and say that creativity requires us to remain present in our lives and to be open to the wonder that comes with experiencing things for the first time – the kind of wonder I experienced hearing Fogelberg's music through a set of headphones all those years ago.