Life is full of richness. A bountiful brocade tapestry of the most sumptuous and lavish of earthy materials, woven together with luxurious textures and weaves – a feast for the eyes and mind. That’s why I love fotografie – it allows me to s l o w d o w n and stand back a little from the frame of life (like one stands back when viewing a painting), and take it in slowly – like a fine, rich, Scotch whisky – aged in French Oak casks for 12 years…
Visually life is a feast. We know that. I know that – that’s why I love taking pictures. But the dinner table of life is also laid with other items that are not visual in nature – but rather, behavioural. The rich and complex behaviour of humanity! Ahh – the textures of human interaction! The book of life is far thicker than any you’ll ever read.
I am alive and I spend an inordinate amount of time thinking and constantly amazed at this very fact and the strange predicament I find myself in! I don’t mind it. I’m just very aware of it. I am über aware of the fact that one moment I was not, and then the next moment, I was.
What a wonderful thing!
This business of being alive can be rather fun – but ONLY, if you realise, that it won’t last, and that, in the end – nothing is really that important. We spend our lives thinking ourselves, our lives, the whole damn show – as being something important and with an aim at the end of it. But it’s not. It’s a teeny-weeny nothing – our lives are – and once you see that – life becomes so much more fun and less painful. Just being becomes fun.
And the only aim of life as far as I see it, is to live it.
You have eyes, and ears and a nose and a brain – so use them! Use them as the instruments that they are, to uncover the brocaded fabric of Mrs Life…undress Her, strip Her naked and then admire her pale truths and her delicious bits and bobs…and those motherly breasts…ahem – right, moving on!
Human interaction is a rich vein that I want to mine now. And my aim is to try to open your eyes to its prodigality and plenitude and lasciviousness!
There is so much of human interaction that we do not think about or notice even. So much that happens under the radar of our waking days. Everyday we deftly navigate through a veritable jungle and thicket of complex human interaction situations, that require subtleties that a powerful super computer would struggle with – and yet we do this navigation, without even blinking. Nay – we do it without even thinking. What kind of interactions am I talking about?
Well, let’s take for example – the interaction we have with strangers on a train. If I sit down on a seat opposite someone whom I have never ever seen before, than the usual and ‘normal’ thing for me to do is to ignore that person; not to say “Hello”, not to look at them too much, not to start speaking to them for no apparent reason, and when I, or they leave the train – there is no reason why we should say goodbye to each other. We are strangers and we both know that though we are sitting in close proximity, we are only doing this for a short space of time.
The same applies to someone who sits next to you on a bus.They are sitting right next to you, touching you – a very intimate situation if you think about it, but there is no need to start a conversation with them. Everybody understands these rules of social interaction. We pick them up as we grow up.
Let’s complicate things a little. Say, for example, I am sitting opposite someone on a train and they then ask me the time? So, what do I do? Well I will look at my watch and tell them the time – and they will (if they have manners) say “thank you”. The interesting thing is what then happens when either one of us leaves the train? Well, because we have interacted with each other courteously – we feel compelled to sat “goodbye” when we leave. You will not always say “goodbye” in such circumstances, but you may glance at each other and acknowledge the goodbye. And yet all you have done is told them the time – yet this simple interaction with them has altered the situation and dynamic! It was nothing really, but then it was also something.
It’s a very subtle thing – but I’ve seen it so many times – and I myself have interacted like this many times. And so have you. It is these subtleties of interaction that I am referring to when I talk about the richness of human interaction. These everyday subtleties we don’t think about, yet a Martian would find totally perplexing. In fact, people with certain forms of autism or social difficulties also find it difficult to detect and understand these subtleties and nuances of social interaction.
Here’s another example (or a question): You’re being served by someone at a Cafe. What is the level of interaction here on a scale of 1 to 10? 1 being the most distant interaction you can imagine (like a telephone conversation with a stranger) and 10 being the closest/warmest you can imagine (family, wife, girlfriend, lovers, children etc). I’d say it would be between 2 and 3. 3 if you are a regular customer and you recognise each other and have a little chat. But at a social interaction level of 2 or 3 there are no OBLIGATIONS on either party. It’s a formal interaction.
When do you become obligated in a social interaction? Imagine you’re at a party and you recognise none of the guests. Do you walk up to someone and strike a conversation? And how do you go about doing it? Well, the way most people would approach this situation is to NOT barge into a conversation between a group of people, but to perhaps find someone else, who also appears to be alone at the party – and then try to strike a conversation with them. The reason being that the ‘group’ may be friends, and they may be having an intimate conversation amongst friends, and since you are not part of the group, your joining in would be considered rude and slightly odd.
Here’s another example (this has happened to me before): You’re on a train and a man asks you if he can borrow your phone as he needs to call the wife about the boiler, it is urgent, and he’s asking you because his own phone has run out of batteries. What do you do? Well in a split second you ‘take in’ the individual – assess his clothes, mannerisms, and body language – and these things will tell you how respectable he looks, how safe he is, is he a danger and is he being honest. Then you lend him your phone. He makes the brief call. Say’s “thank you” after returning it to you – and when the train alights at Liverpool Street station, you both acknowledge each other and say goodbye. There is no need to go any further. He does not feel compelled to walk with you down the platform and nor you. The interaction and the act of kindness on your part has developed a small bond – but it is small and you will probably not see this person ever again.
Now imagine you’re at a station waiting for a train and you strike a conversation with someone. You discuss a manner of subjects: politics, science, history, the weather perhaps, maybe religion etc. The train arrives and you’re both travelling on the same one. What do you do? Sit down with them on the same seat and continue the conversation?
How to tell whether to do this or not? Well, you’d have to ask yourself how much you enjoyed the interaction, try to guess how much they enjoyed it (through their body language and verbal cues) – and try to assess whether they would prefer to sit alone or spend their journey talking to you. This whole interaction is very complex. You’re relying on sub-conscious body language signals that you are not even aware of, and a host of other things too.
You’re back-packing abroad and you meet some fellow Brits in your hostel. What do you do? How do you interact with them? This depend on many factors such as whether they are a couple, a group of guys, a group of women, or whether they are a lone solitary traveller. Through experience I have always found it harder and less likely to join an already established group, then to join a lone person. Interaction dynamics!
And then there is the can of worms that is male-female interaction. You can come away from such an interaction thinking you’ve scored and the girl really likes you – when actually, in her mind, the interaction was nothing special and rather routine!
Life is a complex business. Full of twists and turns and waterfalls. If there is any lesson it is to treat it as a ride.
The ride of your life!