As I’m starting this blog, I’m realizing that there is SO much that I want to share about the joy and potential of improv to transform, it’s impact on life. Many see improv as about trying to be funny; that’s “it’s basically stand up comedy right”, or it’s being totally uninhibited “and I could never do that”. So if that’s you I ask you to just step into a place of wonder and curiosity. Because it’s not about trying to be funny, it’s about remembering how to play again (and that’s not just frivolous fun, but a much needed skill). It’s about being open to discovery and collaboration.And it’s about vulnerability. It’s about stepping into the unknown and learning to be comfortable with that.
I remember about fifteen years ago sitting in Angel Falls Coffee Shop in Akron, Ohio. There were a group of about four of five people sitting and discussing some topic of import. I was just catching some words and phrases here and there. …”drinking water contamination…. giving people a voice….Jesus…. the city’s not listening”. After a bit my curiosity got the best of me and I said, “Excuse me. I admit I’ve been kinda eavesdropping and I’m just curious what you’re talking about.” They graciously explained to yours-truly-eavesdropper that they were doing some community organizing around a water issue with a people in low-income neighborhood in the city. I met Sue Lacy – a community organizer – whom I soon found out to be a dynamic force of helping to mobilize the empowerment of others. I ended up getting involved in their movement; Sue was hired as a consultant for our church who had been stuck in building project paralysis for a time; and she taught me, once over coffee, about “one-on-ones” – a particular skill with community organizing.
Being “curious and courageous” in your conversations are key she said. To be curious is to care and tune into the person as they are responding to what you’ve asked them. To be courageous means to ask them about more than surface things. Go deep. And care deeply.
Today we remember the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. His courage was evident in his willingness to engage in non-violent protest; to challenge the status quo of the South that was an oppressive system for black people.
And I believe he was curious. Curiosity is connected to imagination. He imagined a new future, “I have a dream..” Walter Brueggemann says we too often (in the church and in society) ask first if something is implementable. Rather he posits we ought to first ask, “Is it imaginable?”
Martin Luther King was an improviser. He had courage and curiosity to step forward not knowing the whole plan. He didn’t have it all figured out from day one. But he was willing to step out, and engage with the people in power and the time and stand with those who were oppressed.
As we enter this new era of a presidency where many things feel uncertain, how do we practice curiosity and courage as we improvise a way forward?