Listening to David ChalonerPosted: 7 March 2013
The Amazings is a new set of evening classes in London taught by older people to younger people. The range of practical topics is intriguing and appears to be limited to ‘things you’ve never thought of trying’: curtain making, bookbinding, feltmaking, corsetmaking and the like. But there are also classes on meditation, personal development and philosophy.
Beginner improvisers are often taught: listen, accept, commit. There’s a good case to be made that of these three (echoes of 1 Corinthians 13:13), the greatest of these is listening. Because when we listen intently and without prejudice, acceptance and commitment become immeasurably more straightforward.
A lot of what David said about the importance of listening could have been taken verbatim from any improv handbook. But he had much else to say that was inspiring and useful – about storytelling, about vulnerable people, about belief and about football. I have a page of notes that I’ll be digesting and conceptualizing over the coming days and weeks. I can’t go into detail about everything he said right now, but what struck me most was his practical, realistic approach, which was refreshingly honest and free of hokum. For example, he admitted that we can’t completely silence the incessant commentary of our inner monologues – unless we perhaps spend fifteen years meditating on a grain of rice in a Buddhist temple. We must accept it, and practice tuning it out by concentrating our attention entirely elsewhere. He stressed the importance and usefulness of making judgments and assumptions, while clearly stating how these are not compatible with true listening. Getting things wrong and understanding our limitations are also essential, he said.
He’s a thoroughly engaging speaker who clearly has a deep well of experience and wisdom. I recommend seeking him out.
I frequently find that I get a lot more out of classes that are run by non-improvisers,whose work has a somewhat tangential relationship to improvisation. It is as if the slight dissonance between their field of expertise and my field of study throws out more ideas. It’s an incredibly exciting feeling. Go to it, Seekers!