"Who are the people who you find inspirational?" was one of several questions recently posed on twitter. It is a deceptively simple question and should have been easy to answer. It isn't simple and wasn't easy. The thread in question (if you will excuse the pun) concerned itself not with the obvious candidates; Dr Martin Luther King, Gandhi, Nelson Mandela, JFK - although they are all, undeniably, inspirational figures - but rather with those people who galvanise local communities, provoke action, 'get things done'. I know quite a few dynamic and active people from several walks of life who could be described in those terms but it was in the thinking about the question that I came to a realisation that the inspiration comes from within the communities themselves. I'm not just referring to communities of people living in a particular area but also to communities of practice; artists, business-people, thinkers.
Certainly, there are those that act as figureheads or mouthpieces for certain causes. The charismatic head-turners who might also be 'movers and shakers' and their role in communicating the messages is not to be denigrated or over-looked. However, there are many, many more people working quietly, gently and selflessly in our communities who are genuinely inspirational.
Inspiration is a brilliant example of the virtuous circle; have an idea, share it, enthuse others with it, and they too will begin the process. In their turn they will have an idea based on the first one, will share it, others will become enthused and the whole thing grows as it goes (providing it can get past the nay-sayers and the doubters - let us be realistic here) inspiring others along the way.
Here is a small example from my own recent experience. I like music and am often on the look out for new artists to listen to. I found some recommendations on my twitter timeline and followed them up. A recommendation became an investigation. I liked what I heard and left a comment to that effect on the artist's website. They replied and the investigation became a conversation. Our tweets and emails and phonecalls and, eventually, a meeting lead to an invitation which was accepted and became, in turn, a demonstration. The demonstration proved to be an inspiration. As a result of this demonstration, further conversations were had and these have produced collaborations. New work is being created as each party is inspired by the other. Last week saw a gig featuring the musician I contacted originally and one of the students who had been at the demonstration.
I think that is, generally, how things work. Small interactions leading to bigger reactions. There was no one person leading that recent collaboration. I had the initial idea of bringing the musician in to talk to the students but I claim no credit for that - I have a hundred such ideas a day - this one connected because each party was open to the inspiration.