I have a vague memory of mom telling my maternal grandmother that there was something not quite right about how I colored the pictures in coloring books. Mom didn’t understand why I made green cows beneath a pink sky or purple cats on an orange cushion.
I don’t know if there is a logical explanation for these interpretations; maybe the brown and blue crayons were missing? If so, perhaps I was merely eager to complete the pages. All I know, is that I lost interest in coloring books after overhearing mom and grandma talk about me.
I remember a later incident more vividly. Dad brought me along to a parent conference with my fourth grade teacher. The visit came after the pupils had been asked what we wanted to do when we were grown up. Evidently, the teacher must have noted our replies and evaluated us according to our answers. My answer was “artist”.
The fourth grade teacher expressed her worries about my answer to dad. Dad agreed that my desire to become an artist was troublesome. Both of these authority figures told me that I should pick a more practical career because artists struggle to make a living and society looks down on them. Instead, I should want to do something more normal for a living. Here again I was being shamed for not aligning with the status quo.
These two memories popped into my consciousness today as I pondered the term “creative maladjustment”. I’m guessing that nearly everybody can remember being told to be normal or aspire to be normal. I wonder how many millions of people have been discouraged from expressing their inner, creative voices.
I posit that while there are “social norms”, there is no such thing as a normal person. I bet if you and I were sent to a psychologist, we would be diagnosed as “creatively maladjusted”. I feel safe in writing this, because in all of my 60 some years, I have yet to meet a normal person. I’m guessing that you can also remember some incidents similar to those of my childhood.
Even if we learned to mostly conform and behave in socially acceptable ways, there are places in our psyches that have never adapted to the social concept of normal. For whatever reasons, most people do not reveal their creative maladjustment to just anybody. However, many of us do practice our maladjustment in some form or another and to some degree of openess.
There is some part of us that cannot give in to social pressure to align with and behave according to the status quo. Regardless of what “society” believes, we find ways to be our true selves. When we allow ourselves to be who we are, we feel an inner joy. If we decide to come out as creatively maladjusted humans, we discover new freedoms.
In my view, those individuals who make a positive impact on our civilization have thought something like, “Damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead.” They did not want their true selves to wither away and die in the cause of normality.
I began to cogitate about this subject after finding out that we are in the midst of “Creative Maladjustment Week”. Some people have dubbed this as “Mad Pride” in the same spirit as people celebrate “Gay Pride”. While this week is “Mad Pride Week”, “Mad Pride Day” will be happening on the 14th. This should give you plenty of time to get your creatively maladjusted juices flowing so you can express your own “Mad Pride” on that day.
I was amused, but not surprised that the motivation for this week’s celebration came from Martin Luther King, Junior. The great civil rights advocate often said that he was proud to be maladjusted because, “The salvation of the World lies in the hands of the creatively maladjusted.” More than once, King suggested that we needed to form a new advocacy group. He called it “IAACM, International Association for the Advancement of Creative Maladjustment”.
Dr. King was certainly tuned into a good thing. We can interpret creative maladjustment in ways that parallel his social vision. We can imagine new ways of advancing mental and emotional wellness, perhaps with a social “safety net” that cares for everybody in need. This might manifest as sustainable relationships with each other and with nature.
Since practically everyone is creatively maladjusted in some way, “Mad Pride Week” is a fully inclusive celebration. To participate, all you have to do is pledge to allow your positive creative urges to express themselves. You can help to realize Martin Luther King, Junior’s dream that everyone can come out and celebrate their creative maladjustment.
The Blue Jay of Happiness shares this inspiring message from Dr. Martin Luther King, Junior: “I’m about convinced now that there is need for a new organization in our world. The International Association for the Advancement of Creative Maladjustment–men and women who will be as maladjusted as the prophet Amos. Who in the midst of the injustices of his day could cry out in words that echo across the centuries. Let justice roll down like waters and righteousness like a mighty stream.”