The Spires Have Different Dreams Every Day
I am tremendously lucky to be living once again, at least for the moment, in central Oxford. This is by virtue of my wife’s job as Chaplain to Christ Church, one of the colleges of Oxford University.
Oxford is a magical and inspiring city. The very buildings feed me with a sense of wonder. There is a timeless quality to them, they feel like they have been and that they will be there forever.
However, there is always some scaffolding up somewhere. One or other of the colleges will be doing some modernisation or refurbishment of some kind. Beneath the apparently ancient exteriors thrums a modern and constantly changing institution.
It is not just the buildings that are in a constant state of flux. The people change fast too. The average length of stay in Oxford is only a few years. Significant years for most, but not many in number. People arrive, study, research, teach and then move on, leaving a little of their unique insight and influence behind.
Yet there are enduring aspects to the University. The traditions, the core values, the overall character of the place change very slowly indeed, if at all.
The Show Must Go On, But Slightly Changed…
As an entertainer, my family magic and circus show hasn’t changed radically in 25 years and yet it is now completely different to when I started. It evolves, it gets renewed.
The underlying structure remains the same. My character is still an amplified version of myself. My costume has only changed once in all that time. And, yet, I learn from every show. Sometimes I will drop an improvised line in and it gets a big laugh. From then onwards it becomes part of the show. Sometimes I realise that something could work better if I timed it slightly differently. A couple of times a year I will come across a new trick or routine that could fit my style and I try it out for a bit.
The show evolves yet the core values and overall character of the show remains unchanged. These were instilled years ago through my upbringing, my faith and my performance training. Everything subsequently builds on those foundations.
Bound to Get Better
Having firmly established foundations imposes boundaries on you. This is a good thing. I have heard it said many times that boundaries lead to much greater creativity. Ask anyone who is part of an improv group.
Have you established your core values, your traditions, your ground rules for life and work? If not, then I encourage you to do so.
Then you will have a firm foundation on which to perform your unique miracles to the world.