Getting Past The Tree Stump

Wednesday, October 30th, 2019

I have been watching my mind again. Or the brain, actually. How desperate it is to eliminate the unknown. And how much that creates my mind, my personality.

Riding my bike through Plänterwald forest this morning to take my son to school, I notice a new shape up ahead. Unrecognizable. Immediately my brain seeks an answer; what is it? The thought that comes first: a person bending over, hands on knees. Then comes: why? Answer 1: perhaps they are out of breath; answer 2: perhaps they are bending down for their dog. In a few meters, these answers are thrown away. It is the stump of a fallen tree, bleached from the sun, approached today from a new angle. The uncertainty gone. The mystery extinguished. The danger of the unknown buried by recognition.

Herein lie the great challenge of improvisation. How do I stay present? How do I stay in the uncomfortable, unrecognizable, mysterious state of not-knowing? How do I not attach to an outcome, not jump to the answer, when my brain’s hardwiring dedicates its energies towards dissecting the present into simple knowable forms.

Normal consciousness exists in only one time state at a time. My consciousness constantly toggles between past, present and future. Comparing new information with old, making up stories about things to settle down. Rarely does it stay in the present. The present terrifies the mind and being in the present is what improvisation is all about. Improvisation is not about being clever or seeking answers. Improvisation is full-fledged commitment to not-knowing. Seeking answers pulls you out of the present. Additionally, seeking answers promotes the false belief that not knowing, not having any idea where you are going, or what you are going to do next, is a lack, an absence. Not knowing where you are is exactly where you are. That is the story that needs to be accepted.

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