Commandment 2 – You shall have no other gods before me

by Matthew Stillman.

10 Commandments

Crossposted at stillman says, continuing my ongoing series on the 10 Commandments of Improv.

The text of the commandment from Exodus reads:

Do not have any other gods before me.You shall not make for yourself an idol, whether in the form of anything that is in heaven above, or that is on the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth.

You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I the Lord your God am a jealous God, punishing children for the iniquity of parents, to the third and the fourth generation of those who reject me, but showing steadfast love to the thousandth generation of those who love me and keep my commandments.

This, in the Jewish tradition, reduces down to a prohibition of other gods and idol making/worship.

So I have already posited that the God of improv is the present moment and this commandment adds some meat onto that proverbial bone.

Essentially this commandment tells the improviser that everything comes from the present moment. Much is made about “game” and its accurate description from various schools of improv but this commandment points to a unifying factor – whatever your description of game is or isn’t the fuel for that engine is the present moment.

So some may say that interesting choices or finding your where or establishing relationship are all critical the second commandment says before that you have to be fully there. You cant have an idol that represents your full attention and presence – you need the real thing.

But what I find interesting about this commandment is the repercussions. Essentially if you disobey the punishment goes on and on and on for generations. But if you obey you get 1000′s of generations of love.

It seems to me that this plays out on the improv stage. If you aren’t fully present, no faking, no tricks… the following beats and possibly following scenes are in a much worse state. But conversely when you are just there that you could have hundreds of beats playing the variations – and you want to have them. Following this commandment sucks you into following it more because it pays dividends in love.


One Response to Commandment 2 – You shall have no other gods before me

  1. Halstead says:

    I’m so glad to find somebody else thinks the way I do. Being in the present is essential. Anything less is like nails on a chalkboard. There’s no reason to teach rules and forms until one first develops a way to put one’s self in the moment. It’s the water in the ocean. It’s everything. I never see this addressed.