The Bureaucratic Imagination of a Child

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The other night I ran into (almost literally – I was on my evening jog) a couple of friends and conversation led to the topic of our city being a creative industry hotspot relative to our modest metropolitan population. One of these friends is a graphic designer and the other is an engineer. Since I have an administrative job I assume most creative people (if not most people in general) would consider that to be dreadfully dull and without any chance to use the imagination – as, say, graphic designers or even engineers who generally create by calculation instead of creating by aesthetics. Writers, photographers, architects, and advertisers are some among the many of more creative professions held by people I know. They would probably cringe at the very essence of rigidity and bureaucracy associated with this sector, and think it’s for those who never had imagination as a child, who don’t see the beauty of the forest past the trees or the potential for change and alternatives becoming adopted into a fresh way of seeing and being.

It might surprise some of the people who knew me as a child that I am holding this kind of position, when I wrote a lot and created very elaborate and inventive stories during play time. But I also used to pretend that elementary school was actually a paying job and my bedroom was an apartment (with a communal bathroom, alas, and a lifestyle that required eating out all the time in the restaurant in the lobby that was the family dining room). In high school I expressed my unique individuality by wearing suit jackets and carrying my books in a briefcase. I never accepted the modern employee-employer white collar bureaucracy as a concrete fact of existence, but as a game to play pretend in – a farce, a fantasy world, a game in which people don’t know they’re players.

The other realities of adulthood, with paying rent and bills and having to make my own meals and do my own laundry, have moved some of that sense of absurdity to the back of my mind. I do get wrapped up in the artificial reality of the tertiary sector when I’m in the thick of a problem or even when it’s just the middle of a busy day and both the beginning and end of it are fuzzy concepts. Work time isn’t play time, but that doesn’t remove the theatrical aspect. All the world’s a stage.

What we think of with the term “imaginative person” is the creative type who doesn’t fit standard schedules or procedures or observe traditional rules of dress and conduct. But I dare call this the “conventional creative”. People who think of unique solutions to needs or problems, or suggest innovative ways of change, are not confined to artistic endeavour and most are perfectly competent at structured work as long as they can apply their mind to it. The schism between arts and sciences, creatives and analyticals, that we were socialized into believing in our youth was total bullshit. We all have some overlap of these ways of thinking, or potential in these ways of thinking, spare perhaps people with missing pieces in their brain. Computers in particular are the biggest evidence that there is a bridge between creative vision and logical framework of thinking that is fundamental to both sides.

In a way I am living out my childhood fantasies, and within that I could argue that I’m achieving my dream. Much like my early 20s goals to graduate from university only to get a shitty underqualifying job and live in a shitty apartment, I’m right where I planned to be as long as 20 years ago – an undetectable actor in the grand-scheme theatrical prank of 20th-21st century business. How much more creative and artistic can you get than keeping a straight face?

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