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Creative Moodling for Fun and Profit

This week I learned a brilliant word, “moodle,” or in its gerund form, “moodling.” To moodle is to engage in an act of divine laziness, that lovely inactivity that leads to moments of creativity and inspiration. Moodling can take many forms, each as individual as the moodler him (or her)self. I’ve known about moodling for decades; in fact, I’ve known about it all my life. But never before have I found a word for it that expressed the depth and profound benefit of this act.

Our culture (by this I mean Puritan-based American ethics) frowns on moodling. Platitudes such as “Idle hands are the Devil’s workshop” (forgive me if I’ve misquoted--I’ve spent the last ten years trying to forget sayings like that) are drummed into the American consciousness from birth. Our society demands constant activity, constant achievement, and tireless motion. Anything done for fun, anything which serves no logical purpose, is suspect. So we run around like little human perpetual motion machines, all the while wondering why we are so tired and frustrated.

Moodling, which I learned from Brenda Ueland’s marvelous book, “If You Want to Write*,” is a precious gift we have sacrificed in the name of accomplishment. Children know how to moodle; they are natural virtuosos at it. You never see a child look up from his blocks to say, “Man, I really should work on my taxes soon.” You never see a young child stop to question the motivation of a game or joke.

Children, precious moodlers that they are, have enormous powers of concentration. They take their world very seriously, playing school with more truth and conviction than a doctoral candidate. All of us were once moodlers, whether we admit it or not.

But the art of moodling is drummed out of us pretty quickly. An adult will tell us, “Stop lying about daydreaming. Why don’t you go out and do something worthwhile?” The teachers will tell us, “Don’t waste your time with such nonsense. The world is not a game.” Being adaptive creatures, we learn to stop our moodling in order to be accepted, taken seriously. We put away our imaginary friends. We close the coloring book. We become...grownups.

And in that transition from Divine Foolishness to Productive Adulthood, we lose something profound. We lose the opportunity to see a castle in a pile of backyard twigs. We relinquish our birthright to play, to fun and laughter.

In essence, we become ponderous automatons, more concerned with making a living than with living itself.

Some people never forget how to moodle, though. These are our poets, artist, inventors, and dreamers. These are the people who refuse to see the world as a series of unbreakable rules. Sometimes, they refuse to see rules altogether. They ask, “Why can’t a man fly?” They ask, “Why can’t we talk to our friends through a computer screen?” Since they don’t believe in the impossible, they continually achieve the impossible.

Not that being a grown-up moodler is an easy life. Former moodlers distrust those who haven’t forgotten the art. Some admire, some fear, few truly understand the adult moodler.

But it is through moodling, that is, stopping the constant rattle in our brain, stopping the continuous motion of our lives in order to allow our true thoughts to catch up, that we transform the universe into a place of miracles.

Moodling doesn’t have to be frightening. There are grown-up activities you can modify to get the moodling effect. Try them. Be brave. Be silly. Be lazy. It will take you to places you’ve completely forgotten.

Moodling for Fun and Profit These are just a few of the moodling activities I enjoy. Of course, the best moodles are those we find for ourselves. It may be tinkering with a motorcycle, or whipping up a Spanish omelet, or figuring out a Rubick’s Cube. The common thread is the joy we take in it, the sense of wonder, and the creativity that is released in each simple act.

*If You Want to Write: A Book about Art, Independence and Spirit by Brenda Ueland; first published in 1938, second edition 1983 by Greywolf Press, PO Box 75006, St. Paul MN, 55175. ISBN:0-915308-94-0.