Friday, 12 April 2013

Why not?

Today I found out that a documentary is being made about one of my favourite childhood books. This book was given to me for Christmas when I was in Grade 4 and I have read it multiple times both as a child and as an adult.

After looking through some quotes I found this one, which I quite like:

“Ah, this is fine," he cried triumphantly, holding up a small medallion on a chain. He dusted it off, and engraved on one side were the words "WHY NOT?" "That's a good reason for almost anything - a bit used perhaps, but still quite serviceable.”

Almost two years ago one of my best friends had a son. This little guy is pretty much my only experience of someone tiny. Before him, little kids were to be watched with disconnected amusement at family functions, and intermittently (and accidentally) knocked over through absent-mindedness. But they weren’t actually ‘people’. More like ‘people-potential’.

The best thing about your loved-ones having offspring is that you get to love them too. Not like ‘they’re pretty cute and say funny things’ -  No, I mean that if anyone does anything mean to this kid at school I’ll be GOING DOWN THERE.

The thing about little Harlow is that he accepts all of the information that is dished to him with absolute trust. …Which is a lot of pressure for someone who is reasonably absent minded (I promise I’ve only knocked him over a couple of times).

It’s also a lot of fun. Never have I been cooler, had better ideas, or been more interesting. If I say a sentence to him, he says the sentence to me. If I make an unrealistic zebra sound when reading to him, he doesn’t complain (or give me the funny looks that his parents do). He doesn’t judge me for my poor reading-out-loud technique or even my absent-minded knocking-over. If I swear, he swears.

Sorry about that, Rochelle.

Apparently, first rule of improv comedy is that you must always say ‘yes, and’ when offered an idea in a scene.  The purpose of ‘yes, and’ is to build a shared story with your partner or team-mates, quickly and collaboratively. For example, if you and I were in a scene together, I might say “my name is Kathryn and I make excellent zebra sounds, such as [Kathryn makes very unrealistic Zebra sounds]”. Then you would have to respond by accepting and adding. For example you might say “Hi Kathryn – wow those ARE realistic. Let me join you, and can you teach me how?”. And all of a sudden we have a shared story to play out (obviously I will leave improv to the professionals).

The opposite of the magical ‘yes, and’ is the tedious ‘no, but’. In the presence of ‘no, but’ the scene stops, things get awkward, people feel judged and the fun is over. I’m sure we all know someone who is all about the ‘no, but’. A colleague? A sibling? A parent? I’m sure those interactions make everyone feel accepted and great.

To me, ‘yes, and’ seems to be the life-equivalent of ‘why not?’. If there’s nothing particularly wrong with an idea, why not indeed? Who knows where it will lead?

Very little kids seem to use ‘yes, and’ every day without thinking. “Great Zebra sounds, Kathryn. You are certainly an excellent out-loud-reader. Sh*t, it’d be fun to make those Zebra sounds together”.

I’m not saying that questioning things is bad. Questioning things is important. I guess it’s about questioning why we’re questioning the things at all, and thinking about the implications of  your next ‘no, but’.

“There are no wrong roads to anywhere.”
- Norton Juster, The Phantom Tollbooth