Don’t listen to me, listen to Zed:
Impro’s the finest book on teaching, learning, creativity, and human interaction I’ve ever read, and I’d recommend it to anyone who ever has occasion to teach, learn, create or interact with humans.
Suppose you have a job that was once the job of your dreams, but which for several years has ceased to feed your soul. What do you do? If you’re me, you accidentally read three books that form a strange, powerful trilogy.
The first book describes a young man who is paralyzed in an accident, and who goes on to become a yoga teacher. It speaks to you for months before you understand what it is trying to say: that some large part of your self, though you can’t feel it, is still part of you, and that you have ignored it for too long. The second book describes your predicament in more detail, the writer having dwelt there in the darkness herself, and gives you a passphrase that might open an occult door: “radical self-possession.”
And then you might pick up the third book, this book, which is so simply written that you might be deceived into thinking that it is simple. It is not. In fact, it recaps the earlier material:
Yat also talked about people who were cut off from sensing areas of themselves. ‘He has no arms,’ he would say, or ‘She has no legs,’ and you could see what he meant.
A ‘guru’ doesn’t necessarily teach at all. Some remain speechless for years, others communicate very cryptically. All reassure by example. They are people who have been into the forbidden areas and who have survived unscathed.
Then it goes off in an altogether unexpected and impossible-to-paraphrase direction.
A story is as difficult to interpret as a dream…
This is the book that pioneered “Yes, and…”, the improv technique in which actors do not block one another’s offers but accept and build upon them. Doing this in the large, between actors, helps people do it in the small, with the many different voices in their heads. The walls come down and the energy flows in and out of the walled-off places. I can feel the blood running through my whole body. I can feel sleeping parts of my brain coming online. I can feel where I am blocking Jackson, and feel how to let go, and feel the energy flowing between us.
The titles in my accidental trilogy, by the way, are Waking, Depression and Impro. This amuses me.
My new job is great. And even if it all goes cattywumpus, it was worth it just to make the change.