Listen Like a Thief

Monday November 16, 2020

I’ve wanted to do a series on Improvisation for a long time. After all, Life seems to be lacking a comprehensive set of guidelines and thus we have to make the best with what we have. We have to improvise!

Theatre types call Improvisation “Improv” – so let that be our shorthand.

During the darkest decade of my life, one of the many moments of momentary relief was an Improv class run by Trisha. A talented Actress, she is, nevertheless a terrible mind-reader. My enthusiasm for the class’ success bubbled over in joy each time, but she would put me down every session, telling me to, “Stop trying to be clever!" Have you had people like that in your life? “You’re too clever for your own good!” What an utterly ridiculous thing to say! And usually said by those whose light burns less brightly! The last thing I needed was another ‘critical parent’ in my life!

Nevertheless, my enthusiasm was inextinguishable, and I thoroughly looked forward to every session. We even held the sessions in the Shelley Theatre (as in the family of Mary Shelley and her husband Percy Bysshe Shelley) in Boscombe… how exciting was that?

Trisha’s commitment to the group was short-lived, but it was too late. I’d tasted what I’d always wanted, and I liked it every bit as much as I imagined I would. Improv is all about quick thinking on the spot. It’s about having that witty response to someone else’s suggestion… but not at their expense - and it’s about following the rules!

When I came across an opportunity to join an online class, I jumped at it. One of our first principles – a rule, if you like – is to “Listen like a thief!” For an Improv sketch to flow, each player must truly listen to the person who offers them a piece of content so that they may develop the other person’s idea.

That’s today’s life lesson for me. To listen like a thief. To watch like a spy. To attend closely to everyone else - without a selfish agenda. My favourite Ancient Wisdom comes from King Solomon. He personifies ‘Wisdom’ as a beautiful woman whose worth is far above silver, gold, or rubies. ‘Wisdom’ is the woman we are encouraged to listen to like a thief. Solomon puts it this way:

“My son, attend to my words.
Turn your ear to my sayings.
Let them not depart from your eyes.
Keep them in the centre of your heart.
For they are life to those who find them,
and health to their whole body.”
[Proverbs 4:20-22]

Perhaps listening to others like a thief would listen is not quite life and health, but it’s a great start! Every blog published on Moodscope has within it a gem that can make for a better day, or at least momentary relief. I intend to listen to you, more attentively – then we can improvise together!

A Moodscope member.

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