As the semester intensifies it’s difficult, on some days, to keep motivated and remain inspired to push forward. There’s the key: inspiration. Inspiration is a bit of an airy-fairy concept—the lack of is often invoked as an reason for artists, writers, etc. to remain stuck until “inspiration strikes.”

But what is pure inspiration—the kind that does result in great acts and monumental art, and tiny ideas that seed and grow to great oaks? I’m on a quest to actively get inspired this year: to live life fully and become a more complete adult and productive member of society. Working at the Nav. is something of a kick in the pants to seek out that inspiration, rather than passively wait for it to call.

But it’s difficult to get inspired, especially when there’s so much distracting noise going on around us: in our devices and the sobering content that those devices so often deliver.

Last week I went to see a lecture by physicist Neil Turok (see this issue’s spread). Not because I have a talent for physics, or work within that field, but because I want to be inspired—and I think that one of the best ways to do that is to embrace different ideas and enfold different ways of thinking into my life. Turning life sideways, and shifting perspective.

I also read an article last week in which a grade three girl from Omaha had read a book about influential female figures in history, then decided to dress up for school as a different woman (from all different fields), every single day of the week. She’s done this for months and plans to for the rest of her elementary school education. How’s that for inspiring?

In Greek mythology, the Muses were goddesses of inspiration for literary, artistic, and scientific endeavours, and Muses are sometimes invoked within the lines of poetry. Inspiration comes with a sense of reverence, respect, and results in thoughtfulness.

Something we could all do with having a little more of.

The very act of engaging with and creating art involves imagining what it is to be something other than the self, and I wonder if this is lost, certainly deemphasized, in today’s educational system.

I think that it is the quest for inspiration and the use of imagination that it incites is one of the key ways to aquire passion and empathy. The recent suicide of Amanda Todd was the fault of those around her: those who victimized her and ignored her, and their failure of imagination. They failed to imagine another human being as a whole, complex person who is imperfect and has desires and wants and goals and fears.

It has been suggested before, and here I’ll reiterate: empathy ought to be taught explicitly, and it ought to be course—a core subject for all elementary and high school students. It shouldn’t be an expected by-product of simple lessons in sharing and group work and reading, instead the idea should be grabbed head-on. In today’s high-tech society of screen names and instant, permanently recorded communication, this kind of thinking is more important than it has ever been. There will always be creeps: I have doubts that the man who harassed and extorted Todd would benefit from such an education, but what about the students who jumped on board?

I engage in this exercise because I hate to think that any of these kids are beyond hope when it comes to understanding and treating peers with respect. Bullying and cruelty have been around schoolyards since long before the Internet and there’s no doubt in another time, another place, but with similar conditions, this event could have been re-created. Now, however, it’s so much easier to lose a piece of our souls to the anonymity of the machine. It should be mandatory to spend time exploring the experience of others—rather than have that be a connection that students are expected to make themselves when reading a novel for a high school English class. Bullying and intolerance paints the world in black and white. Let’s inspire a little colour.

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