Issue 03 / The Future is Cooperative

Is this my own?

A personal essay by Foram Nyberg

Over the course of the pandemic, I gestated and birthed my firstborn. When Minnesota’s stay-at-home order was announced, I was building her ears. As Covid deaths in the US passed 100,000, she was growing eyelashes. As far as she’s concerned, only I, her father, and her dogs have a mouth and chin.

The experience offered me a chance to straddle two contexts: during this time of such tremendous loss, I gained a new person. 

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about what it means to live, think, and create in a world where things are added just as quickly as they're taken away.

Creation is the act of making; creativity is what comes before it. Our world celebrates competition as the reason for creation, the catalyst for innovation, change, progress. Rooted in the idea that we're all vying over a set of scarce resources.

But scarcity is barren soil for creativity. It tells us there are only so many ideas to be had, only so many voices to tell a story; that you have to be either the best, or the first.

At least that was the case for me. As a child of immigrants, without reinforcement at home and representation in the world around me, it was years before I even accepted that I was worthy of being creative. The stage was not big enough, the well of inspiration was not deep enough. For a long time, I told myself that the stories inside of me were already out in the world, told by other people in more beautiful ways. I edited my ideas through the lens of: “Is this the best? Is this the first?” rather than asking, “is this my own?”

An abundance mindset challenges how we define and value a new idea. And it works in both directions: your art can always add something to the world, and your art can always be added upon. Competition is valorized, but in reality cooperation requires far more courage. Maybe that's why it's harder to come by, and why it means so much. Looking at creativity additively makes the work more vulnerable. It also usually makes it better.  

My baby points now. She's in constant discovery, where each thing feels new no matter how many times she's seen it.  She turns suddenly whenever she hears our dishwasher. Her eyes widen when she sees a window. She raises her tiny finger toward it in awe, thrilled.

Becoming a parent has introduced me to an entirely new emotional landscape; one where the peaks are higher and the valleys are darker. The terrain is somehow new but familiar, universal and singular at the same time. Maybe that's why I see my life and my creativity through the lens of abundance now. Because the story of a parent and a child is one we've all heard before, but it's different every time.

This process of relearning my relationship with creativity is one I practice daily, especially now that I have a new person to tell stories to. Some lessons have resurfaced again and again. I've found that honesty matters more than novelty– even if something's been done before, its very existence makes it unique. With that pressure removed,  I've learned to forgive myself when the work is imperfect, knowing there's always another idea waiting to be thought, and more ways to share it. Experimentation liberates. And in the process, I've begun to embrace the collective potential. Working with others in co-ownership creates something more beautiful than any single person can envision.

There’s always more to gain and more to offer; more to risk and more to lose. But abundance makes you brave. 

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