I really like Groups. I find a lot of my personal security in the context of the Group, and also believe deeply that collectives of people are powerful forces that obviously can work towards very bad things, but equally can embody and produce very good things. Whether I like them or not, Groups are here to stay: we are, after all, pack animals, and we will congregate around others as a matter of course. The Group is an inherent feature of being human.
Increasingly, I have come to see that the Individual is also a very powerful force, which can work towards very bad things, but equally can embody and produce very good things. Individuals have a particular gift to offer that cannot be given by the Group: that is, the gift of Inspiration.
There is a great creative, energising force in this world, and my observation so far in life is that this Spirit of Creativity, which wants to become embodied, tends to visit Individuals.
This is all of us.
It comes in the form of ideas that wash over us when we are in the shower.
It gives us a kick when we are trying to get to sleep at night.
It gives us a dangerous tap on the shoulder while we are driving to work, and catches our eye in a passing street while we are on the tram.
Sometimes it interrupts a conversation that we are having with someone else – usually it has dissolved itself inside a cappuccino – and I don’t want to rule out the possibility of it rising up amongst a large group of people. The Spirit moves as the Spirit does. But it’s just that usually, I have noticed, that this Inspiration of the Creative Spirit comes to us as Individuals, channelled through our own uniqueness as Individual People.
If the piece of Inspiration has a social dimension (let’s say it’s an idea for a community project, or a new business, or a theatre production), it requires the Group to really set it in motion and embody it. We need some people, people! Here are some things that can happen:
1. The Individual casts a vision and a direction that the Group likes, but the Group does not get on board. While they appreciated the Inspiration that the Individual offered, they found that their own contributions were not valued. So they drop out.
2. The Individual casts a vision and a direction that the Group likes, and the Group get on board as passive followers, slotting in where they are useful. People participate in groups like this for a range of reasons, and I wouldn’t go so far as to say they are all pathological. But I would say that the overall dynamic does not honour the unique giftedness of each member of the Group, and is likely to produce a culture of hero-worship and passivity. Surely the fruit of such a Group cannot be as rich and textured as compared with a dynamic where the gifts of all the members are employed.
3. The Individual gifts their Inspiration to the Group, offering a vision and a potential direction. The Group accepts the Inspiration, and then shakes it up a bit, irons it out, turns it inside out. Other members of the group – who are also Individuals – add their own Inspiration to it. What we end up with is something that probably looks a lot different from what was envisioned by initial Individual, but – if the group is a healthy one – it is actually a whole lot better.
(Another thing that can happen is that nobody has any Inspiration. Have you ever experienced this? I have. Maybe we are spending too long inside the group, staring at each other. Maybe some of us need to get out for a while! Maybe the Group needs to dissolve, allowing its members to catch some more Inspiration and start afresh.)
In my work, I’m aiming for Outcome 3. But it’s quite hard to achieve, because I not only have to be confident in the inspired nature of my Inspiration, but be willing to hand it over to the other Individuals to add their Inspiration.
Ultimately, it’s about trust:
Trust in myself.
Trust in the others.
Trust in the Creative Spirit who inspired us all to begin with.