Hey, it’s me Mark!
So the other day I was driving in the left lane because I was planning on making a left turn up ahead. A guy came up behind me started honking. My car is not good. I was going as fast as I was able, but the guy behind me wasn’t satisfied. When we got to the light, I got in the left turn lane, and he pulled up next to me.
“You need to be in the right lane!” he informed me loudly.
“But I’m making a left turn.”
“You need to be in the right lane!” he reiterated. He was not pleased with me.
So what was going on here? Why was he so angry? I’ll tell you: he was angry because I’m different from him.
It’s pretty much the root of the problem as far as I can tell. We’re all different from each other. We’re all going through life, trying to figure this whole thing out and be a good person and all that. We have our own ways of doing things, and our ways of doing things are the “right” way to do it. In fact, I have my own way of doing things, and it’s the “right” way. But to me, it’s not just the “right” way; it’s the right way. Because I am the arbiter of my own truth or something.
But everyone being different from each other creates a lot of trouble:
- When someone is different in a way that makes me superior, I feel proud.
- When someone is different in a way that makes me inferior, I feel envy.
- And in general, when someone is different, I feel frustrated.
Pride and envy are sins. And they are sins related to how we see ourselves with respect to others. So when we get stuck thinking of ourselves as different from each other, these sins tend to crop up.
But let’s back up a second; isn’t that last bullet point interesting? Why do we feel frustrated? Like with that guy in traffic, why did he get under my skin? Why did I find his behavior frustrating? Because I wouldn’t have done it. If I’m behind someone in traffic and they are going slow, since I have a really old car, I tend to sympathize with them. Their old car is slow. It sucks. I know. My old car is slow as well. But notice that the reason I’m not frustrated with them is that I see us as similar, not different. We’re two old slowies, slowing our way through life, getting honked at by the honky fasties.
But what if I was a fastie? Would I feel differently? Probably. I mean, I’m a slowie, and a fastie honked at me and it bothered me. You know why? Because we’re different. We reacted to a situation differently. I placed myself in his situation and decided that the best thing to do is be patient. He decided differently.
These things–pride, envy, frustration–they make it hard for us to be kind to each other. I think part of the reason why is that they create separation. They create a division between us–between us and God and between us and each other. (The term “devil,” or “demon,” or “el diablo” all come from the Greek word “diabolos,” meaning “divider.” The names we give Satan tell us something about him and allow us to recognize signs of his presence. Anything that creates division is from Satan.)
The word compassion is literally “com-passion,” meaning “to suffer with.” With. We can’t suffer with people we are separated from. When we see each other as different, we are making it impossible to be compassionate toward each other.
How do we solve this? What can we do?
Well, the thought that comes to me is this: “You’re unique, just like everyone else.”
I get that it’s a bit of a non-answer. Yes, we’re all the same in that we’re all different from each other, but that doesn’t really help us a ton, does it?
Let’s approach this like rational, handsome, tall people. Ask yourself this question: “Does it make any sense to expect people to be the same as you when you know they are different than you?” Of course it doesn’t. It was a rhetorical question anyway. But the crazy thing is, we all sort of expect people to be the same as us.
We need some help with this problem. We simply aren’t built to allow other people to be different than us.
Improv Can Help
Imagine a world where your ideas are never wrong; where whatever you say is true; and where every choice you make is the right one.
Welcome to improv. Feels good, doesn’t it?
Now, imagine a world where everyone else’s ideas are never wrong; where whatever they say is true; and where whatever choice they make is the right one.
Still improv, but it kind of drives you nuts a little bit right? Some part of you is screaming, “But right and wrong exist!” That’s fine. Right and wrong still exist. That’s not what’s bothering you anyway. The thing that is sending shivers down your spine is the idea of people being different than you. But in improv, you’re exposed to it continually.
The crowd gives you guys a suggestion of “Phonebooth.” You think “Dr. Who.” He thinks “Bob Newhart.” You’re both right, now let’s find out what happens in this universe where Bob Newhart is playing Dr. Who.
The crowd suggests “apple.” You think “physics.” She thinks “iPhones.” You’re both right, now let’s watch Issace Newton give a Steve Jobsesque product demo for the concept of gravity.
It’s fun! I totally want to see both of those things now. But nobody was wrong! They were different, but they figured out a way for both people to be different and have different ideas and have each of those ideas be right without the world collapsing in on itself from the moral relativity.
Improv is a wonderful tool to help us grow comfortable with other people’s difference from us. In fact, in improv, we sort of begin from a place where we know there is no chance of the other person having the same idea. Someone shouts out a word and we jump into it together to find out what’s going to happen. And the only rule is that we need to say yes to their ideas.
We’re all different, but we need to love each other. Being different from each other can be frustrating. We need to learn to accept that people are different. Improv can teach you to do this.
It also can give you the opportunity to play a horse waiting in line at the social security office to register a name change because she recently got married.