Sunday, September 27, 2015

Structure or Flexibility?

David Cobb asked the question: would you rather be a flexible person in a structured society or a structured person in a flexible society. My short answer was flexible in structure. There is a longer answer based on life and experience though. 

I was born a flexible person in a structured society. I struggled, felt odd, questioned when I didn’t think I should. And here I have to give credit to my parents. Although structured people of their generation, my mother gave me the gift of imagination and my father let me know it was ok to question everything ~ of course he wanted me to come to his conclusions which didn’t always happen and he taught me to question. Thanks, Dad!! 

When the 60s and 70s arrived and all the establishment found itself under scrutiny and question, I felt more at home. The societal shake-up felt good to me. I felt more at home. Then professionally I became a stage manager and the structure and the flexibility came into balance. 

Nothing is more structured than a live theatre production that must run smoothly and consistently night after night. Everyone knows their job and where they are to be at any given moment. And . . . once in a while some thing happens in the middle of that structure. Mirror balls fall, actors trip or a prop gives way under them, fly lines break lose during performance or you receive a request for a procession at the opening of convention session. At that point flexibility takes over and the stage manager and crew hurriedly confer, make a decision and act totally out of structural context. 

You know this even if you have never set foot in a theatre. You have dinner for 4 prepared and your daughter walks in leading a bunch of friends. “Mom, can they stay for supper?” Of course - there is always room at the table for one or 2 or 3 or . . . more. You are ready to close a business deal. All has gone according to plan and then at the last minute one of the parties decides it is not such a good deal after all. Suddenly you become flexible - you continue to negotiate or you stand firm and the deal breaks up. But you are flexible no matter how much you have followed the structure of “the way it is done.”

So ~ My answer to the question is: I want to be flexible. Structure doesn’t always hold, human beings aren’t always predictable, and when those things occur, I want to be able to look, adjust, act on what is rather than worry about what is supposed to be.

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