Generosity: a required skill in performance, relationships, and in life.
Posted February 17, 2011
"He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain that which he cannot lose" -Jim Elliot
I've had many conversations over the years about generosity, both the benefits of being generous and the importance of doing so selflessly and joyfully... with no thought of receiving something in return... with no concern about being taken advantage of.
I experience the conversation and the same general reaction- huh?- often. There is always surprise at my desire and even determination to give, and curiosity at the idea that it might not be contingent upon some preemptive proof that the receiver will reciprocate, or at the very least, be grateful.
This makes sense from the perspectives of separation and scarcity, where 'invasions of privacy' and 'boundary crossings' would naturally being seen as such. Yet lines can only be crossed after they've been established; when generosity is instead viewed as a transparent and even transcendent opportunity to connect, share, and contribute to the life of another, the experience is entirely different.
For some, this view is unbearably simplistic and idealistic, if not dangerous. Indeed, psychology demands the establishment of boundaries as a prerequisite for the creation of healthy relationships with self and others. Yet there is an empowered stance of thorough openness that provides for both safety and availability- a stance in which I've never once felt exploited, imposed upon, or overwhelmed personally or professionally. On the contrary; these experiences have come only after attempting some measure of compartmentalization, separation, or isolation in an effort to self-protect... an effort that paradoxically saps the energy and global awareness required to see and feel what's really going on.
These principles are just as applicable in performance. Generosity is not merely an idealist's ideal. It is a discipline in art, as in life, that is required to make the transitions from good to great to extraordinary. You get what you give; it is only with an open and available mind, heart, and spirit that one can truly affect and touch others.
Our performances and lives are not about offering ourselves over a boundary called ‘between us'. They are an opportunity to knock that illusion down. Energy spent wondering how to simultaneously present and protect is energy not spent really being with others. Give it up, and you will find that miracles- personal, professional, and performative- are possible.