Forecast for the Future

"Every individual without exception bears a potential writer within himself. The reason is that everyone has trouble accepting the fact that he will disappear unheard of and unnoticed in an indifferent universe, and everyone wants to make himself into a universe of words before it's too late. 

Once the writer in every individual comes to life (and that time is not that far off), we are in for an age of universal deafness and lack of understanding."

- Milan Kundera, The Book of Laughter and Forgetting

Monday, January 7, 2008

Week 1, Jan 6-Jan 12: Have a Conversation with a Stranger Each Day

That's pretty much my take on things this week.

One of the exciting and scary things for me about Hyperliving is the way that many of the activities highlight the weird contradictions in the way we exist. This week's challenge is a great example. Most people who know me probably think of me as someone who has trouble keeping his mouth shut. I yap, therefore I am. Among friends and colleagues, I debate, dialogue, and pontificate to no end, my machine-like brain rapidly processing one thought after another in an attempt to turn an entire evening into one lilting, ceaseless thread of discussion. But with strangers, folks I don't know, it's all different. It's not just that I clam up when I'm around them, but I do so before I even get any further than seeing them from across the room--Yeah, I'll just stand here nursing this drink. I know that probably at all times half the people in any room would feel exactly the same, but for me, someone who in certain situations feels very comfortable and confident unzipping my metaphorical pants, I feel disappointed with myself that I have trouble translating that confidence to approaching and speaking to strangers.

And it's pretty much all about insecurity. I know, I know, "Hey, What's the worst thing that can happen? They don't wanna talk to you"--but really, it feels so much worse than that, like there are much worse things that can happen. The experience of approaching a stranger and not feeling confident that they will have any interest in acknowledging my existence, let alone ratifying that I might present any value to them, gives me terrifying sensation of negative self-realization that I do not actually feel confident in myself enough to not give a shit where I stand in the mind's of others.

The moral of the story is that I have chosen one of the most personally difficult challenges for my first full week of hyperliving. Making mixes or not listening to music, or even attempting to write complicated poems I have no business writing all seems so easy compared to the fear I get in walking up to strangers to talk to them. But Hyperliving I am and Hyperliving I must, and so out I go.

Sunday Night, Jan. 6 -- Nearby bar, random Japanese man

Tonight my stranger was named Hirashi (??? no idea what his actual name is, something that I think begins with an "H"), and I met him at a nearby bar and knew right away that he was the dude I needed to talk to. I found him in the back as the only standing spectator taking in a jazzy jamband (read: dudes who hold their drummers up at knifepoint insisting that they must continue playing the same downbeat forever so that every band member, including Horace the Bass Player, can take a mean "facemelting 6 minute solo"). At first he was just swaying and rocking back and forth, but then, suddenly and unexpectedly, he began to bust out serious dance moves like the one above. Headspinning, knuckle dragging, the tipsy sway--all were part of his repertoire of groove. I've seen dudes get down before, but never before during a clarinet solo on a jazzfunk version of "Well You Needn't".

Sight unseen: There were two men playing "Big Buck Hunter" only two feet to the right.

When he finally slowed down to catch his breath, I approached him. I asked him what the band was called and, with a look of confusion, he said he only knew the bass player (which seemed confusing to me because it appeared that the trumpet player had been gesturing for him to come up on stage). We spoke for another five minutes or so, or rather, I asked him questions of himself and jambands and, of course, his dancing. Our conversation was somewhat held back by his limited comfort with English and his inability (or disinterest) in looking me in the eye while he spoke.

"I really dig your dance moves, dude. How do you know what moves to do when the music starts playing?" I asked.

"Oh yes. I just hear rhythms and then my heart tells me to move [gesturing]. It is like music in my rhythm soul."

Yes, this challenge is going to be difficult. Tomorrow I am going to have a work a little harder if I am going to have any kind of conversation that lasts more than five words. I am already beginning to think about what words I am going to use in my sestina next week.

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