The Art Of Is

Posted on in Art + Soul by Monique M. Muhlenkamp

Improvising as a Way of Life by Stephen Nachmanovitch

Cover The Art of Is Improvising as a Way of Life

“The most ordinary act of creativity is spontaneous conversation—the art of listening and responding.”

Did you know that the rousing ending of Dr. Martin Luther King’s famous “I Have a Dream” speech was improvised? When King paused to look at his notes, the gospel singer Mahalia Jackson shouted “Tell ’em about the dream!” At this point, according to Dr. King’s speechwriter, Clarence B. Jones, “he pushed the text of his prepared remarks to one side of the lectern. He shifted gears in a heartbeat, abandoning whatever final version he’d prepared… he’d given himself over to the spirit of the moment.” What if you could truly give yourself over to the spirit of the moment in your everyday life? What incredible things could you achieve?

Musician and free improvisation pioneer Stephen Nachmanovitch is the author of one of the classic books on improv and creativity, Free Play, written more than 27 years ago. His second book, The Art of Is: Improvising as a Way of Life, published in April, takes the notion of improvising and creating to a scale beyond the individual. Nachmanovitch hopes not only to tune readers in to their own spontaneity but also to extend it into empathy for and collaboration with others.

Buddhism comes into the mix as Nachmanovitch expounds on ancient stories and koans of the Buddhist tradition and relates them to the creative, synergistic act of improvising. He also delves into nature and how exploring he natural world can help us learn to think as nature does, asking the question, “What is it to behave in a natural, spontaneous way?”


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