If Mormons are fun, are we doing this?

3.22.12 | | 18 comments

So I saw the TED talk below today:

So, I thought, are we doing that?

Of course, we, Mormons, are doing improvisational things. Even the Mormon Tabernacle Choir jumped on the Flash Mob theme, along with a number of other groups. Several BYU groups, including Divine Comedy and Laugh Out Loud.

Still, there is something perhaps a little bit different in what Charlie Todd is talking about. Its not about just imitating what others are doing–another unexpected song and dance number in a public space. Instead, it is more about not only new unexpected actions, but actions that somehow demonstrate a serendipity or randomness or beautiful senselessness.

When, years ago, the “random acts of kindness” fad spread throughout the United States, I thought it fit well with the Mormon view of life and way of doing things. But unlike Todd’s improvisational group, the Mormon practice seems to be more private and anonymous.

I don’t know that it has to be. And perhaps I just don’t know about what Mormons are doing in this area. So, if you know of some type of improvisation like this, let us know about it in the comments below.

Or, you might also brainstorm a little, and come up with some ideas of improvisational actions that might be uniquely Mormon.

[I'm posting this tonight, so that I'm not in the way of someone else posting tomorrow morning.]

18 comments: “If Mormons are fun, are we doing this?

  1. Kent Larsen Post author

    Before I get criticized for the title, I should add that I don’t mean that this is the only way that Mormons can be fun.

    I’m merely trying to ask if we are doing this particular kind of fun.

  2. KLC

    Kent, are we doing what? Playing Candid Camera? Dress a deacon without pants and point our iPhone cameras at the bishop as he brings him the sacrament?

    Sorry to be snarky but TED videos just rub me the wrong way. They all look like PBS fundraisers shows where the earnest audience joyfully mouths the words to old Peter, Paul and Mary songs. No pants on the subway is mildly amusing I guess, but you would think form the raucous laughter in the audience that this guy is Robin Williams mid stride in the best manic performance of his career.

    And flash mobs? Again, there’s something strange about putting so much planning and effort into creating spontaneity.

  3. KLC

    And isn’t it strange to tout the 10th annual no pants in the subway day in a presentation about improvisation?

  4. Wm

    I don’t have the time to look up all the links right now, but there are a ton of popular web videos that have been made by Mormons, typically by Gen Yers.

  5. Kent Larsen Post author

    I dunno, KLC. I thought it was a lot of fun. You are right that by the 10th anniversary, its not exactly improv, at least in the same way.

    But while I disagree with you about TED videos, that isn’t really the point. While I certainly do ask about improvisation, I’m even completely sure that improvisation or spontaneity is the point, now that I think about it.

    Perhaps we could ask the question this way:

    What do we do that is fun and different (and artistic, after all, this is an arts venue), perhaps publicly, just because.

    This kind of improvisation is certainly one way (spontaneous or not) to do this. What else is there?

  6. Kent Larsen Post author

    Th. we aren’t any more? Should I keep it a secret from the dancers in my ward?

    KLC, no problem. I’ve done the same.

  7. Luisa Perkins

    We definitely aren’t dancing the way we used to. When I was a kid, there was a regional Dance Festival every summer. I haven’t seen a Dance Festival in our area–ever.

  8. Stephen Larsen

    I think Mormons are stuck in culture that deems adherence to social norms like commandments. A lot of us would want to do things like this but it crosses so many social norms I think a lot of members of the church would wrongly frown on it.

    I know for me I’d love to try something out like this. It looks like it would be fun. Also, the little rebel inside of me loves stepping on social norms.

  9. Th.

    .

    In my mind, the best sacrament meeting talks are those that break the rules. They’re the ones people remember.

    I arrived at this philosophy through, natch, a J. Golden Kimball story.

  10. H.Bob

    Adam G. (#11)–To take that a step further, what about “flash food”? Get four or five people to show up at someone’s house about ten-fifteen minutes apart with the salad, entree, dessert, etc., unannounced. I could see a creative RS president doing something like that. I could also see it doing a lot of good. Hm.

  11. Moriah Jovan

    @Adam G. and H.Bob

    This was done in my ward for one family per week. It was intrusive and somewhat insulting, especially since the food brought was something I could not eat (but no one asks about dietary restrictions when they take food, do they?) and no one else in the house would eat. The whole of it got tossed in the trash.

    That little experiment ended after a couple of months.

    We aren’t fun. Period. We may be cheerful or joyful or cautiously lighthearted, but we aren’t fun. Dances, gone. Roadshows, gone. Skits, sketches, and talent shows, gone. Non-hymn music performed in Sacrament Meeting, gone. Our shared culture is one of 1950s WASP country club with mostly unspoken rules of dress and comportment, when girls got “in trouble” and “bad” boys wore leather and had a pack of Camels rolled up in their tee-shirt sleeves, and which comportment does not include loud laughter or raucous displays–especially not where The World can see us make the church look bad by doing so.

  12. Moriah Jovan

    @H.Bob You could see the RS president doing something like that, could you? And where is the priesthood in the lovely plan?

  13. Kent Larsen Post author

    Moriah wrote:

    “but no one asks about dietary restrictions when they take food, do they?”

    Well, my wife does — but I admit that it is unusual.

    “talent shows, gone. Non-hymn music performed in Sacrament Meeting, gone.”

    Not in our ward. I sang a non-hymn religious work in Sacrament meeting less than a month ago. These works are very common in our ward. We also have a couple of talent shows a year. From what I can tell, there is nothing prohibiting them — they just are no longer mandated.

    Lest I just brag about my ward, I can see your point, Moriah. Because it is no longer mandated, or at least is no longer part of the standard program, it doesn’t get done. And the huge variety of entertainment delivered to our homes clearly crowds out a lot of what used to happen.

    But, I think the “flash food” idea could work for a while — if some reasonable precautions were taken about dietary restrictions.

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