Several years ago I read a book called The Art of Possibility by Rosamund and Benjamin Zander. She’s a psychologist. He’s the conductor of the Boston Philharmonic. I’m going to re-read it this summ
er because the book is about thinking outside-the-box, imagining in a new way, being open to possibility. That’s what improv gives us and it’s what’s needed in our current times.
The frames our minds create define – and confine – what we perceive to be possible. Every problem, every dilemma, every dead end we find ourselves facing in life, only appears unsolvable inside a particular frame or point of view. Enlarge the box, or create another frame around the data, and problems vanish, while new opportunities appear.
The authors suggest that the reader ask the question: ‘‘What assumption am I making, that I’m not aware that I’m making, that gives me what I see?”
At the time I wrote in my journal: I assume that when I get more done, I’m more productive, than I can feel better about myself. And so when I go faster, then I get more done, than I can be this ‘better person’. So then my five-year-old daughter who wanted to stop to look at a ladybug, or admire a flower, (within this paradigm) was an obstacle to my going faster, getting more done, feeling better about myself. yuck. I didn’t like how that assumption turned out.
I went to the next question: “What might I invent (or I like to say ‘discover’), that I haven’t yet invented (discovered), that would give me other choices?” I decided to turn my initial assumption on it’s head – just for fun. I wrote: ”If I go slower, I can do less, and therefore I’ll choose what’s important, and become more of who I am. In this case my daughter is not an obstacle, but a gateway into this new universe of possibility!
At the time I was hit hard with how this tendency towards attempting to do everything, and speed up as a result, could impact those around me. With this new way of thinking, my little daughter was leading me in a new way of being. Slowing down and paying attention. Because who I am is not what I get done in a day. To be honest, who I am is about whom I’m connected to. If I’m in a hurry, little connection; when I slow down and am present, the opportunity for deep connection with another and with God expands.
So I was thinking today, about the gift of the elderly. At a certain point in our lives, we just can only go so fast. Within a certain, tragic framework of thinking the elderly who have slowed down by necessity are no longer “productive members of society”. Within a new way of thinking they are a gateway to help cure the hurried among us. To help us slow down to connect.
Lord have mercy. Teach us to slow down and notice, and look each other in the eye, to sit awhile and listen. To be present to what is unfolding.
Another Book to check out: In Praise of Slowness by Carl Honore