The Genesis Project Episode Seventeen

“Grace, Jim and I have given a lot of thought to your apprenticeship effort, and they have stimulated our own thinking about the creative development of people. What your experience has done has evoked a growth in our own minds. Both of us have a story to share with you that we think will be relevant to not just apprenticeships but creative development in general.”

“Let me start,” said Shirley. “You probably don’t know the name of Margaret McFarland. She was a renowned expert in childhood development. She had a seminary student in her class on counseling. Her student was also working as a puppeteer on a local children’s TV show. He became her apprentice when he went from being a puppeteer to a screen presence on his own show: Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood.”

“Margaret developed Fred Rogers into the beloved figure he became. If you remember the show, he always came on screen from the left and moved to the right. She advised him to do that so that children would be conditioned to move their eyes from left to right when they were reading.”

“When she passed away, her former students described her as a creative catalyst, their professional mother, and someone who could lead students to the threshold of their own minds.”

“Now, let me share a very different apprenticeship story”, said Jim. “Fred Rogers was obviously a very willing apprentice as was Hattie, who you told us about earlier. I work with unwilling apprentices. You may not know, but I work with dogs who have been abused and have become a threat to others. I try to rescue them from being put down by removing their hostile tendencies. I begin that process by talking calmly to them, looking them in the eye, and only approaching them when they are receptive. Eventually I’ll get a leash on them so we can walk together. Again, we take small steps, no jerking of the leash. When trouble arises, it is averted with a calming voice. Over time I can let the leash expand so that the dog is essentially walking freely.”

“Now, let me tell you what your stories are telling me”, began Grace. “First, the creative development process can work for both the willing and the unwilling. The keys to both seem to be taking small steps and being calm throughout the developmental experience.”

“That’s a great insight”, said Shirley.

“And it helps, the default network wins out over the executive central network in the brain”, said Jim. “In effect, you are helping make new experiences acceptable.”

“Another takeaway for me is that every apprentice needs to be given more and more freedom to explore. Letting the leash get looser so that they become comfortable with their own actions.”

“Another great insight”, said Jim. “You are developing that part of the brain where creativity resides by removing the tendency to self-censor or be bound by limits that are mere perceptions.”

“One final insight that I had was this: The mentor for the apprentice must be willing to accept that their apprentice may eventually pass them in their creative ability. I really admire the Margaret McFarland’s of the world for their passion for lifting others to greater heights than they could have achieved themselves.”

“Wonderful!”, said Shirley. “I’ve done an entire series on others like Margaret. They are the true heroes in the creative process.”

“Let’s meet again”, said Grace, “so I can tell you about another piece in the project that focuses on a community-wide effort at developing creativity.”           

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She told me that the basis of creativity was the desire to bridge the gap between what is and what might be.” – Fred Rogers (speaking of Margaret McFarland)

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