I’m convinced that the most exciting times in our lives are those in which we don’t know where the hell we are or where we are headed. They are also the most scary because the unknown can make us feel so lost.
Dante wrote, “In the middle of the journey of our life, I came to myself, in a dark wood, where the direct way was lost. It is a hard thing to speak of, how wild, harsh and impenetrable that wood was, so that thinking of it recreates the fear. It is scarcely less bitter than death: but, in order to tell of the good that I found there, I must tell of the other things I saw there.”
Most of us want order and control in our lives. We want to know how much money is in the bank, who we’ll fall in love with and when we’ll retire. Sometimes we want this kind of certainty more than wonder, joy, and mystery because let’s face it: the latter three invite more ambiguity. Wonder, joy and mystery can’t be structured, manipulated or planned for and they can disappear as quickly as they make an appearance. They aren’t the by-product of a game plan. They are the ball soaring through the air but when you least expect the touchdown.
Direction typically emerges out of intention. What is it that you most long for? What are your passions and how do you want to live your life? What do you want to be remembered for and what do you want to give to the world? Who and what do you love and who and what loves you? As 2016 draws to a close, instead of thinking about New Years resolutions, perhaps it’s more wise to reflect on these questions because out of the questions answers emerge. Out of the undoing and the not knowing comes clarity, focus, and manifestation.
In acting class there is an exercise sometimes referred to as a “frozen reading.” Two actors are given a scene they haven’t set eyes on before and are instructed NOT to read it. Instead, they are told to look at each other. Only when they are locked onto each other’s eyes, can the person with the first line look down at the script. He or she is to read the line quickly, grab the words, and then deliver them while looking right back at the partner.
It’s super weird doing the exercise because it makes me feel like I don’t know what the hell I’m doing. I don’t know what is going to happen and that is precisely the point. It’s about being in the moment and about being relational. If I’m looking at my partner, I’m not thinking about how I’m going to deliver my next line. Instead I start to act on the edge, responding to what is unfolding in real time: my partner smiles, my partner twitches, we burst into a nervous giggle, a certain strange sexual chemistry unfolds, even though the script doesn’t indicate romance…. OR, the script’s words are about love, yet my partner stares coldly at me, and I in turn, deliver my line clipped….
The exercise is about letting go of preconceived notions and allowing the moment to unfold as it is meant to go down. For control freaks like me, this is the perfect metaphor for life. Can I let go and see what happens? Can I be open to new experiences? Can I love? Can I perform without a safety net? Can I invite possibility in?
Great art emerges from risking taking and generosity. It unfolds from NOT playing it safe but from acting on the edge.
Sure we all want a little security and consistency in life but what happens when those desires threaten to make us prematurely old? What happens when we abandon our childhood dreams and our heart’s desires? Children don’t think about how they might get hurt on the playground. Instead, they just dive in and play.
As we enter 2015, I want to act a little more on the edge. How about you?