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Black Holes

A prompt to encourage your practice of creativity this week from Riversider and local author Larry Burns.

Do you need a low stress way to include seven minutes of creative contemplation into your week? Consider this your helpful nudge towards a slightly more creative life. If it helps, come back every week for a quick hit of creative contemplation. Each week I’ll share a new nudge. It will include a Thing (T), a Place (P), and a Sense(S) for your focus, a TPS creative nudge.

Last week, we completed some high wire acts, finding a few minutes of creative expression using the ever present lines that run overhead, empowering our lives. What did you see when you looked at those lines? I was reminded of how much wildlife uses those wires as a corridor or way station during the day. I watched squirrels scurry, saw a hawk take a rest, watched crows groom themselves just after sunrise, and noticed just how early Mockingbirds get up. Whatever came in on your wires, I hope that multi-sensory exploration of where you live charged up your creative battery.

This week, we imagine what our favorite things (based on what we look at) without those convenient power lines providing the juice that lets us run loose. Our creative nudge this week will use a blank screen from an electronic device. I’m going with the television because looking at a blank screen reminds me of a Shel Silverstein poemabout television and its transformative powers.

Whether it's a television, computer, or phone, a screen devoid of images and words presents a unique opportunity for introspection and creativity. Like the silent darkness of a sensory deprivation tank, a blank screen invites us to explore the vastness of our imagination, and perhaps reveal our selves that lie just beneath the constantbarrage of media. In this void, unshaped by external influences, we find a space ripe for creative exploration. Let's seize this moment of pause, this digital canvas of nothingness, to engage in creative play and contemplation, discovering what emerges when we disconnect from the stream and connect with our inner selves.

Pick your favorite screen to stare into and flip the power dynamic by turning it off and turning you on. Then, try one or more of these nudge worthy activities:

  1. Reflective Photography: Capture compelling images reflected by your blank screen. Explore the stories that emerge from this interaction of reflection and reality.
  2. Universal Screenplay: Imagine a narrative that explores life beyond the screen, or perhaps the life of the screen itself when it's not aglow with content. Who are the characters in a world where screens stay dark, and what stories do they have to tell?
  3. Repurposing Screens: Could a cluster of unused monitors become a sculpture, a garden of electronic flowers, or social satire? Sketch or outline a project that transforms these dormant devices into something that challenges their original purpose.
  4. Silent Soundscapes: Tune into the sounds that usually covered up by your screen’s attention seeking behaviors! Create a soundscape or musical composition inspired by this newfound auditory landscape. This exercise challenges you to find beauty and inspiration in the absence of typical stimuli.

Pausing to consider the blank screens that populate our lives—the silent televisions, idle computers, and dormant phones—reminds us of the power we have to curate our digital environments. It's a valuable practice to periodically step back and reflect on what we allow to fill these screens and, consequently, our minds. 

By engaging with these creative exercises, we not only rediscover the joy of imagination but also reaffirm our agency in choosing how we interact with the digital world. May this exploration of the space beyond the screen inspire you to find new ways to express yourself, to connect with others, and to appreciate the unplugged moments that fuel our creativity.

Care to give others the creative gift of a blank screen for April Fool’s Day? Simply unplug all the televisions and monitors in the house and listen to the creative language come alive!

This column written with the help of ChatGPT Plus and related Plugins.