Today is Sunday, and I routinely attend the Unitarian Universalist church services in Bend, Oregon. Today was quite different. Today was a biannual official welcoming of new members to our congregation, and they were greeted with a pleasant ceremony. The kids weren’t diverted to their classrooms, but instead stayed with the adults for the whole hour. We usually sing them out from the front of the congregation under an arch of outreached arms, which happened as normal, but they were stopped at the back where I was, and returned to the front by the same song, under the same outstretched arms, but at a quicker tempo. I saw what was about to happen, and turned on my movie camera function and followed along close behind the kids. My goal was to give these kids the opportunity to walk through this arch again in a movie, some time much later, perhaps when they are adults.
There were several stage presentations put on by the members, all of which were intended to be fun for the kids as well as the adults. I was involved in an improv presentation which went off quite well, but it was also a corroboration for me once again that being 80 years old isn’t a time to begin an improv career. I am perfectly willing to give it my best, but, here’s the problem, I can’t remember a dozen things in a minute. The general myth about improv is that you don’t have to know anything, and to a certain extent that is true, but the other side of that idea is that you must learn and respond instantly to a lot of unrelated inputs.
For example, you must learn several names, their characters, their character traits, their relationships to the other characters on stage and their traits, and the situation that is suggested by the audience, all while developing a natural story with a beginning, a natural direction, and a conclusion. And, more. When I was young, a pilot in the USAF, I was particularly good at multitasking, and it is likely that that is a major part of being good at improv. Now that ability has drifted away.
I am still doing a lot of things better, even much better, than when a youth, and these things are associated with maturity. Maturity isn’t a thing that automatically comes with an accumulation of years; it requires a lot of considered decisions that take effort. To become mature requires the decision to do so, and the willingness to move on from an adolescent mindset that is surrounding one’s self with personal value, and beyond an eager caring for one’s family and doing a good job for personal accomplishment and for the sake of quality rather than quantity, to being a person caring for the well-being of the whole community and every person you meet. That’s an attitude of the mature activity of making the world a better place for everyone with every action. It is an advanced form of kindness that requires seeing what other people need, and clearing the way for them to see their opportunities and options, so they can choose what they need and see a path for doing it. It is not doing anything for others directly, but allowing them to be totally self-reliant.
Being mature is helping others to live and participate with their opportunities.