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My six week level-one Improv class just finished up and I’m moving on to level-two!

The classes are a safe, fun way to practice being “in the moment” and not editing my every thought. During the classes, we essentially participate in games and exercises to focus on particular improv skills. It is definitely an art form that has been thoroughly analyzed and deconstructed to the point that anyone can practice and actually do this.

One such game is  “What Are You Doing?” Two participants alternate back and forth asking this particular question to each other.  As soon as one partner responds the other must immediately begin performing that action. It goes fairly quickly and the challenge is obviously to  immediately come up with a random answer as well as immediately jump into the task or action that the partner commands. You can never really celebrate saying or doing something clever because you only have a few seconds until the fast-paced exercise again places you in the spotlight requiring another immediate idea.

“What Are You Doing?” answers are usually simple things like, “eating ice cream like a 5 year old” or “driving a race car” or “giving birth”. They are not meant to be profound or significant but on the drive home from the last class I asked myself, “What are you doing?”

What the hell AM I doing?

Ten years ago I would have had a ready, prepackaged answer for myself and others.

I am a child of God. I came to earth to get a body and this life is a test to prove my faithfulness to God. My purpose is to follow Jesus, be sealed eternally in the temple, raise righteous children and live happily ever after with God and my family in the celestial kingdom.

I don’t believe any of that anymore. It’s all just irrelevant, vague, superstitious….and sentimental.

Sentimentality

Even as a child I never quite understood that Mormon children’s primary song, “I am a Child of God.” I mean, it’s simplistic enough that I understood its intent, but what’s really so special about it when everyone else is a Child of God too? What’s uplifting about being here for the exact same purpose and the exact same finale as everyone else?

What I didn’t understand at the time was that I was reacting to the song’s sentimentality.

Sentimentality was best explained to me in an essay by Paul Toscano titled The Pandemic of Narcissism where he calls sentimentality:

A craving for emotional experiences without regard to their source, their truth, or their value… It seeks only to induce a pleasant sense of spiritual euphoria – the kind of feeling we get when we hear about poor people being helped in far away places, but not like the feeling we get when we actually go to far away places to help the poor.”

I’m not looking to answer  my own question with anything that includes imaginary friends and imaginary places either before or after right now.  I’m not trying to induce a momentary intoxication that I can look back at and pretend that the experience was concrete and therefore I now know something significant.

So what am I doing right now? This week? This month? This year? This phase in my life?

I know I spend a lot of time ruminating and processing. Too much time. It does nothing for me. Learning to be in the moment was the very reason I began this Improv adventure.

Beyond that I am:

  • Fathering
  • Sharing
  • Nurturing
  • Creating
  • Achieving
  • Venturing
  • Friending
  • Embracing

When I look at that short list I can think of several areas of my life where I can apply and act upon each one in positive ways. My list can and will change over time, perhaps even tomorrow yet that’s what I’m doing right now. To me that’s more real and more powerful than the previous pat answers that caused me a lump in the throat or burning in the bosom.

What are you doing?

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