We spend our days making decisions: from the most banal ones, like what we will wear that day, to the most difficult ones, the kind that changes the course of our professional life or of our very existence. Consciously or unconsciously, our trajectory is guided by these choices and by our ability to make them.
In 1990, Stephen Nachtmanovich’s “Free Play: Improvisation in Life and Art” was published. Among other things, the book suggests that improvisation and creativity is not the sole domain of artists, but a part everyone’s lives. According to Nachtmanovich, in daily interactions, “all conversations reflect improvisation as a basic function of life.”
In order to improvise when playing an instrument, for example, one must first gain control of music’s language, and then one begins traveling over and around it. And in life, the greatest part of the decisions we make on a daily basis are the result of improvisation. We have acquired the basic language of the way we should speak and behave at every moment, and once we have gathered these vital experiences, we feel increasingly free to improvise around small and great quotidian decisions.
One of the losses of people with cognitive impairments such as Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia is precisely that ability to improvise when making day-to-day decisions. And upon this loss, they become dependent. One of my favorite activities is to improvise ways to reorient people with such cognitive impairments because in this process I find answers to questions never previously asked as well as a new way of understanding the role of improvisation in our lives. We cannot forget that if we surrender to indolence and laziness, we may also lose the ability to improvise…