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Dumbo and the Magic Feather

by Amanda Pagliarini

October 8,2009

You know how the story goes. Even though he knows that the elephant does not need help, the mouse convinces a disbelieving Dumbo that he could fly using a “magical feather”. It isn’t until Dumbo loses the feather that he realizes it was just a trick -- he possessed what he needed in order to fly all along. What if we stretched the fable a bit? Try this on for size: Charlotte didn’t need the fancy museums or the big funded projects; the magic was in its people.

I routinely hear or read, often in this very publication, about the things Charlotte needs in order to be a vibrant city. We need diversity, culture and artistic expression. No one can argue with that. But I’m going to go out on a limb and suggest that in order for the new museums, organized festivals and artistic councils to bring any meaning to our city, Charlotte needs to also welcome the individuality, creativity, and weirdness of its people.

Imagine a city where a person could walk into a Chamber event dressed in edgy fashion and not be looked at funny or whispered about. Imagine a city where a panel discussion on innovation includes the views of someone under the age of 30. Imagine a city where burlesque troops performed at high traffic, center city venues instead of underground clubs in Elizabeth. Imagine a city where folks leave a luncheon or an awards dinner feeling rejuvenated by its creativity because the host took a risk. Imagine the same event riling some feathers and then celebrating the conversations that come from opposing views.

Last week, I read an article in Creative Loafing that really pushed my buttons…and it felt good. Reading this brash, opposing point of view sparked something within me. That spark reignited both my own passion for the topic and my sense of creativity, which at the time was reduced to a smoking ember. That day, I was able to write with a ferocity I hadn’t felt in months.

We need to get rubbed the wrong way, even offended on occasion. Engaging in or experiencing something contradictory to one’s tastes or beliefs doesn’t always have to be about embracing differences. Sometimes it can simply be a means of falling in love again, growing our convictions, or feeling alive. There is no quicker way to snuff out creativity and innovation than constantly surrounding ourselves with like-minded people or participating in status quo situations and events.

Let’s all try or experience one new thing a month that seems in direct contrast to our tastes. Listen to NPR or soft rock during your commute? Try Lil Wayne or the Benassi Bros for a day. Enjoy big budget, main stream films? Take in a flick at Manor Theatre. Prefer a quiet evening at home after a week of work? Go experience the boisterous activity of the EpiCentre on a Friday night. Think NoDa is for hippies, Southpark is for the rich, Uptown is for young singles, and Ballantyne is for parents who have a sitter for the night? Go prove yourself wrong. Drink a margarita instead of a glass of wine. Trade the comfy shoes for a pair of four inch heels. Think you’re too old for a night club? Go try sitting on the patio at Halo. Think you’re too young to drink tea and play checkers? Do just that at one of our multiple coffee shops and cafes.

You could find a new love for something you once resisted. Or just as fantastic, you won’t.

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