There’s something about candour that I have always found comforting. That and beards. The second quirk is admittedly less justifiable, relating more to connotations of poetry, leather-bound journals and living in the Walden forest. Whilst I would willingly spend time arguing for beards, I believe a more selfless and productive use of my time would be to write to encourage candour.
The earlier and more titillating James Bond films were coloured by men who spoke with purposeful, brazen, almost laconic dialogue. I’ve always romanticized this, however such characters had the advantage of an edited script to read from, and often, while the suspense that comes from such conversations is enjoyable in the cinema, in real life I prefer to know what someone is really thinking.
I have developed a tendency to speak in a manner that is segueing, energetic and revealing. You’ll witness it here. It’s an engrained habit that I’ve been practising for years and has only been exacerbated by my fear of missing out. This paranoia plagues me; before I decline an invitation, or an opportunity it lunges and reminds me what I might get out of it: what I may witness or feel, whom I may encounter and what those experiences might gift me. And so I speak quickly, furiously, fanatically, intensely and often, much like the way I walk or cycle, or dance for that matter. Perhaps a more stringent self-editing process wouldn’t leave me so exhausted at the end of each day.
The desperate desire to understand how everything and everyone works developed mostly because I believe it’s an architect’s duty to create spaces and places that serve and nourish people, and can only succeed by densely soaking themselves in stuff – all stuff. I wonder if there’s a limit to how much we can absorb without becoming overwhelmed, without leaking like an overambitious kitchen sponge. It’s also however, in part due to my sincere and deep love of people.
I’m reflecting on this because I find myself in a new city, Melbourne, on the quest for my first job as a graduate architect and of course meeting new people and trying to build a sense of home is a healthy subsidiary project. I’ve never found it difficult to converse with strangers; I’m what you’d call an open book, on sale, in a chain bookstore, with which you would receive a free second copy. Of course there are some things I keep to myself, but I feel there’s nothing kinder and more conducive to goodness than being honest and sharing yourself. I think there are a few things more enjoyable than listening to someone share something they’re passionate about – I love it. I love asking my Grandpa to tell me stories, to recount his memories to me, in the hopes that the parts of himself that he most values might remain with me when he passes. In asking that he shares these moments with me, I hope that he might get a sense of comfort knowing that someone else has heard him describe a time, or an event from his perspective, in his detail, and that it might continue in some manifestation. Although the story might morph in the retelling, that’s not the most important part. More critical is allowing someone to know that their life has affected someone else.
When meeting people for the first time, it’s become natural for me to invite them into my thoughts. I lived in Shanghai for a year, and am sure that it encouraged me to be an even more fearless conversationalist. On a bus, or in a store when I heard the English language I’d whip my head uncouthly, so that I might spy another ambitious expat to befriend. It was such an unexpected and wonderful gift to be in a context without an established network. I learned that diving in audaciously most often resulted in an awesome adventure.
I think that a habit of sharing and public spaces assigned to this might pose a solution to those chunky, fearsome issues like urban densification, homelessness and urban loneliness and isolation. I wonder if the machine-like city would function more efficiently if the individuals who made up the whole were sincerely concerned about one another and were willing to share with a faith that others will also. Surely our most valued commodities as humans are conversation, information and socialisation. Perhaps great lessons can be learned from the city and the experiences they enable us. Symbiotic relationships should abound, if we understand urban dwellers to be resources, like books in a library. Perhaps one method of satiating my hunger for knowledge in my endeavour to be a great architect is to spend more time with people, and resist the temptation of such things as books, magazines and the internet.
It’s possible these few paragraphs have brought to light the need to take a more relaxed approach to things and not be so hung up on the idea that doing something is always better than pausing to reflect. Mostly though, I’m triumphing sharing and caring, as trite as that may sound and in doing so I’ve shared a bit of me. And that makes me feel wonderful.
Photo credit: the Winnipeg Tribune, Central pk 1962