Thursday, June 07, 2007

Improvisation as Spiritual Reality

I am an improviser. This is my primary identity as an artist. I am an improviser before I am an actor, writer, director or producer. I believe in the rules of improv:

1. "Yes/And" - Always agree to what your partner says and add something to the story.
2. Listening is more important than talking.
3. Be Selfless.
4. Find the game...and play it.
5. Help your partner.

I believe in improv as an artform because I also believe the above rules work amazingly well in every area of life. I think they are spiritual.

I just finished reading a little book by Mark Batterson called In a Pit with a Lion on a Snowy Day. At one point he claims that improvisation is foundational to a life of faith. In essense, that faith teaches us to improvise through life more than giving us the "script" for a perfect existense.

I had another thought today in that regard. We took the kids down to Newport Beach after dinner and spent an hour or so walking around. I was captivated by the birds (sea gulls?) that hover above the ocean and then dive nose first at full speed into the water to catch a fish. I had this thought that "that's what they do." I thought of other animals and how all animals do something special and beautiful like that. I quickly found myself thinking about what an outsider would look at the human animal and say "that's what they do." (This is all going on in my head as my kids are throwing sand at each other and annoying tourists...) I looked around and watched us - all of us humans. We were surfing, sun bathing, fishing, running, selling and buying. I saw the residue that we leave behind - beach houses, pizza shops, volleyball nets, boardwalks, hotels, parking lots, etc. It occured to me that we, the human animal, improvise. It's simply what we do. We take all of the things that the birds ignore while they finish their scripted lives and we do something else with them. We turn trees into piers, cotton plants into string bikinis, cacti and limes into margaritas, stones into sidewalks and metal into massive moving motor vehicles. We don't adapt to our environment so much as we adapt our enironment. We create. We improvise. Why? Because that's just what we do. But why is that what we do?

Because...In the beginning God improvised....and then he grabbed a chunk of dirt and improvised something in his own image. He created a community of improvisers and said YES, AND be fruitful and multiply.


Wayne said...


You've got to preach this sometime. WOW!


Kris said...

Joe, please write a book. Besides the free signed copy you would give me, I would buy it! Seriously...
You got talent in there!