Notes from a captive : on improvisation, ethical communication and being held hostage
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This existential phenomenological research paper is undertaken to explore communication where responsibility to the other is paramount. To do so, the researcher immersed herself in two settings: a jazz duo, and a not-for-profit community day program, which provides care for the developmentally challenged in their senior years. The research is driven by the philosophy of Emmanuel Levinas, which is echoed in existential theological and philosophical examinations of human ethical responsibility. Converse to western ethics that privilege the “I” and assume the other is a limitation on self-preservation, Levinas believes “I” is the hostage of the other (Levinas, 2001, p. 133). This kind of ethical communication is responsive, improvisational and more than a little like jazz. Levinas, existential philosophers and theologians all discuss the role of creative capacity and dynamic potential in ethical engagement, in “being” and “being-with” (Levinas, 2001; Nancy, 2000) others. In these explorations, individual capacity, combined with an awareness of moral obligation to others—to be good persons (Christians, 2002)—provides a jazz like opportunity for creative engagement; a dynamic and potent possibility that demands awareness of and attentiveness to the other, but which is open-ended.