Friday, April 25, 2014

"You can't make an omelette..

..without breaking a few eggs."

This phrase has been in my head this week as I have mused on the topic of eggs. I've been wondering about it's deeper meaning, and since I couldn't find it in my dusty copy of Brewer's Dictionary of Phrase and Fable (an essential tome for any reference shelf in my humble opinion), I had to resort instead to Wiktionary for a good definition: "in order to achieve something, it's inevitable and necessary that something should be destroyed". An unverified internet source also suggested that the phrase emerged out of the tumult of the French revolution, giving it a somewhat darker slant - guillotine humour.

I take great satisfaction in the very act of cracking of an egg into a frying pan, let alone the resulting enjoyment of egg on toast (if I'm honest I don't actually make many omelettes). I suppose you could also interpret the phrase along the lines that you can't enjoy your eggs without breaking their shells, since not many of us eat our eggs with the shells on (I say not many, because I am sure that there are people in this world who do actually eat eggs with the shells on).

Regular readers will know that I've been thinking a lot around creativity and innovation these past few months, and among the many interesting books I've been reading, Steven Johnson's "Where Good Ideas Come From" has some really interesting thoughts on creative environments and (as the title suggests), where good ideas come from.

Increasingly, it seems that the best ideas come from collaboration and openness rather than (just) the solo effort of an individual. In fact, Johnson suggests that many of us need aspects of other people's ideas to complete our own, as they also need ours.

For creative people, our ideas, dreams and visions can often feel like precious eggs which we sit on for months and years waiting for them to hatch. Maybe some of these do hatch, but I bet that the vast majority remain incomplete and unhatched in some way. We can feel very protective of our idea-eggs, but perhaps this protective attitude isn't actually serving us in the way we think it is. Perhaps it's actually slowing us down - reducing us to waddling speed, earthbound like Emperor penguins desperately protecting their eggs between their legs.

If what Johnson suggests is true, and it has a strong sense of "truthiness" to me, then if we really want our ideas, dreams and visions to fly then we need to crack open our eggs and set them free to connect with other people's ideas and dreams, to become something bigger than our own imaginings. Perhaps we need to crack our dream-eggs into the collective pan to make an omelette! By keeping our talents in their safe eggshells we run the risk of them never reaching their potential.. or to extend the egg metaphor further, to go off. If we think our ideas stink, maybe it's because we haven't given them enough air.

I believe that we're given our talents, passions and dreams for a reason, by a loving creator God. Without stepping into these, setting them free, letting them hatch, the danger is that we miss out on the adventure planned for us and settle for something less than we're able. Like the servant in the parable who buries his talent rather than putting it to work. Instead I want to be the one who makes the most of what he's given. This doesn't necessarily mean being the very best in our field, but it does mean becoming the best expression of who God has made me.. perhaps it's less about the magnitude of our talent and more about what we do with it.

I'm an adopted Midlander, and I love the industrial history of the Midlands - it really was the birthplace and heart of the industrial revolution, which changed the face of the planet. The BBC have recently been publishing a series of essays on the Midlands, and this week's (here) is about the so called "Midlands Enlightenment". Suffice to say it's a great historical example of people like Erasmus Darwin, Matthew Boulton, James Watt and other members of the Birmingham Lunar Society who cracked open their eggs, shared their ideas and came up with a metaphorical omelette of world-changing technology, thinking and action. We can learn much from these polymaths, not least the power of collaboration and connection with those both similar and different to ourselves.

In my day job, the company I work for has a phrase "Stronger Together", echoing the well known words of the Bible that "a cord of three strands is not easily broken". If you're anything like me, then it can be a vulnerable thing to share your precious dreams and visions with others - but if we want them to grow wings, if we want them to grow and develop in ways that are bigger than we can think, then we must embrace openness and set them free. In my experience, God has a great way of helping us step into our passions and use our talents in unexpected and adventurous ways, especially when we bravely put our ideas "out there" rather than keep them in their protective shells.

So this week, why not ask yourself whether you've been sitting on any eggs too long, and whether there's an omelette of some kind you need to contribute to.

One final thought, from my friend Dan (a keeper of quails). To make good eggs you need plenty of grit in your diet (his quails certainly do) - so whatever your area of talent, whatever shape your dreams take, whatever field your ideas reside, are you feeding yourself enough grit to make good eggs? In other words, where are you taking inspiration from? Are you getting enough diversity in your reading/watching/listening/praying to stretch, challenge and feed your dreams? Perhaps you need some extra grit, something to chew over, something to get you thinking again..?

Thanks again for reading, I'd love to hear your thoughts, and happy cooking this week!

1 comment:

Bav said...

Thanks Luke. Food for thought! I particularly love the idea of 'plenty of grit' - Certainly doesn't sound like I can stay in my comfort zone then!