Waking up to Wisdom
In Stillness and Community

Awakin Readings

Every week, we post a reading from various wisdom traditions, to provoke insights and deeper reflection. Each thought is also accompanied by an illustration and an audio recordings (and often translations in other languages). Explore and enjoy!

What You Do Afterwards

--by Keith Sawyer (Mar 12, 2018)

Creativity is all about what you do afterwards. I’m thinking about something that Miles Davis said about jazz improvisation: "It’s not the note you play that’s the wrong note–it’s the note you play afterwards that makes it right or wrong." In improvisation, you don’t know what an action means until later. The group creates meaning, by responding and building on that action. This happens all the time in improv theater, and it’s what gives it such creative power. I call it retroactive interpretation. In improv, actors intentionally speak lines of dialogue that are ambiguous, utterances that can be interpreted in multiple ways. Actors do this on purpose–not because they’re lazy thinkers, or they’re just trying...

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