Conscious or unconscious improvised performance?

Over the last few weeks ive been participating in a Supervision in Community & youthwork Training course at Durham University, its been a great reminder of the skills of supervision, and some of the processes of learning; notably the  move from  conscious incompetence to unconscious competence – something usually associated with the example of learning to drive or to ride a bike.  Whereby the ideal position to get to would be unconscious competence in regard to learning to ride.

It got me wondering how many moments of youthwork are skills that it would be possible to have unconscious competence in, and whether this is appropriate, as Heraclitus reminds us “No man can step into the same river twice” – because in a second act, not only will the river water be different, but the person planting their foot would also be older. Would it be safe to make the assumption that every act we perform is different to previously, in our theodrammatic performance, let alone in any kind of youthwork.

Can it also be assumed that we can do youthwork unconsciously competant would infer that the implementation of the same skill would be the requirement in every context. Even in detached work, with 100’s of hours behind me, every moment with a young person on the streets is different, as they are different, and so am I, let alone where, when and who it takes place with. So even though i may be learned in detached work, i need to be fully conscious to the implementation of the right response in the context – rather than go through the motions. The opposite is true of how I react in supervision settings, this is something i am more conscious that I am in need of learning of. but I am also in need of being a conscious learner on detached.

What of the role of improvisation in the Theodrama beyond the fourth wall (see previous blogs) – how might this be learned, and to what ‘level’ ?

As actors performing the Theodrama on the stage of the world, how are we learning to be wise in performing appropriately in a conscious/unconscious way?

I guess if we are unconsciously competant in this then we rely on intuition and instinct – which may be God given, and Spirit led, and could be argued as a truer improvisation, but does this reduce our need for ongoing prayerful reflection of the Canon, the people, the church and the context?

Another position would be if we acted in the Theodrama as if we’re consciously incompetant, then we reduce the God given learning from our previous experiences, though this might allow us to be more humble in our need for God’s help in the situations we find ourselves, but incompetance is possibly too self-degrading.

As Archbishop Bloom says: The basic thing is that i never ask myself what the result of any action will be – that is God’s concern. The only question i keep asking myself is what should i do at this particular moment” And if we have are consciously asking this question on an ongoing basis, then our actions in any situation reflect a triangulation of context, values and Canon then our consciousness to ask this question means that we are in tune with its space, yet this might infer that we are not being ‘natural’ in the space- we are conscious of our role, God at work, and also our failings. But might this be what Paul talks about in being of Sober judgement?

Vanhoozer outlines that “every encounter with another person constitutes a small scene and whether disciples will say and do the right thing is what makes for drama” (2014:233) so do we go into every encounter in readiness and preparation for the ongoing play of the drama, or do we ‘let it happen’ ?

In Drama of Doctrine (2005) Vanhoozer argues that “inspired acting is a matter of improvising in a way that is consistent with the role one has sought so hard to learn” – but what about someone who is unable to learn their role?

Yet the question about conscious and ‘un’ conscious improvised performing remains, and as importantly what so children, young people and the part they play?  does childlikeness and innocence mean that children already (unconsciously) play the drama?  and when children need to learn their parts, or when they develop their role, where can and do they do this?  – they learn about the drama, but how to perform it? and where/ when are they given rehearsal space to do so?

So are we consciously or unconsciously ‘competant’ participant performers acting the ongoing Theodrama?  improvising on the never static worlds stage..



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