If you don’t care, I don’t care: The art of being.

young-woman-bored-11281332030yRqtRecently, I was at a conference and I heard a lecture. The who, what, when, where, and why don’t really matter.

What matter is the how.

One of the presenters simply read her paper as a presentation. Now, I’m willing to give her the benefit of the doubt. Maybe this was a last-minute thing, maybe something changed, maybe she was told to do it that way. None of that alleviated my boredom. I was restless, begging for the clock to hurry up, and hoping for some kind of distraction like the fire alarm, so that I could graciously sneak out and find another lecture that would wake me back up.

Sadly, I cared about her topic. It had meaning to me. But I don’t go to lectures to hear the paper read to me. It would be much faster to just hand everyone a printed document and send us on our way. When I hear a speaker, I want to hear passion about the subject. She could have stumbled around with her words, poorly tried to make her point, but if could hear in her voice how much this meant to her, I would have appreciated it much more, and quite possibly learned something. I was looking to be entertained.

Traditionally, when we use the word entertain, we are talking about TV, or a live show, possibly a comedian. I now use the word in a stricter sense. You can entertain a thought. When you have guests at your house whom you feed and have conversation with, you are entertaining them. You don’t have to have a song and dance prepared for the occasion – you just have to occupy their minds with something that will keep them paying attention. Every interaction is entertainment, for good or ill.

People pay attention to other people, not so much to subjects. That’s how we begin to really like TV shows. We’re hooked by an interesting subject at first, but soon we don’t really care about the subject anymore, because we “fall in love” with the characters on the show. If the Fringe crew were to somehow come back as regular police investigating everyday crime, some people may complain just to complain, but they would get the same following that they had investigating Fringe events – because we’re paying attention to the characters, and their lives, and their interactions with each other.

This works the same way in real life. If you care about your subject, I’m interested in what you have to say, whether you are talking about quantum physics, ghosts, knitting, or carpentry. If you don’t care about your subject, you could be talking about everything that I have on my “list of interests”, and I still won’t be able to pay attention very long, because if you don’t care, I just don’t care. I want to know about you. Your passions, interests, hopes, dreams, plans, goals, thoughts, and more.

But if I ask you about these, and you pull out your bio and start reading it to me, I’m leaving.

I look good on paper, but…

photoIn the last two days, I have twice heard people comment that they look good on paper, but they feel as if there is a disconnect between that and how they feel in reality. These individuals have amazing credentials, but aren’t experiencing what they would would expect that someone with these credentials would be experiencing.

They are searching for something that doesn’t exist.

We expect to emotionally feel similar to the way that we look on paper, because deep down when we see how others look -on paper- we assume that they feel that way. The disconnect isn’t between how we appear and how we feel, the disconnect takes place due to our particular notions of certain people. If we look at someone we greatly admire, most of the time we expect that that person emotionally experiences what we are experiencing as we admire them. We have to keep in mind that they are not. They are living their own personal feelings completely disconnected from our expectations.

This is because the whole of a person is so much greater than the sum of everything that they can put forth in their image. I said in my “Creating Your Life’s Composition” post that a person’s life can’t really be categorized well, and never completely. In general, people who are successful or admired decide to put only the best stuff “out there for the world to see” (best stuff according to their standards), and hiding everything else, keeping it as private as possible. I want to emphasize that I use “best stuff” very, very loosely. Someone’s best stuff may possibly be publicly working out some of their “worst stuff”, and that can make them successful or admired. I suppose it would be better to use a phrase like “most interesting stuff”.

When we see how good we look on paper, any paper, but we don’t feel like that amazing person that we’re reading about, and there is a good reason – The paper isn’t complete. It isn’t the whole story, and we know the WHOLE story:

On paper, I’m a working musician, magician, and writer with a handful of books, albums, public appearances, lots of big and little kudos to throw out there for the world to see. I have a beautiful wife, a great family, a house, my own woods, ideas for making my homestead sustainable, a new car, a pickup truck, and the list goes on…If that was the whole of my existence, I would either be ignorant and exceptionally happy, or analytical and extremely bored. What is not on paper are all my personal issues, health problems, relationship issues, insecurities, and other baggage that I want to keep private or are simply not fit for public consumption. I want to list some of these things in detail, but I would do so at the risk of dominating this essay and obscuring the meaning. My point is that all that great stuff is not the sum of who I am.

Life would be much simpler if we decided to not expect to feel a certain way. Just live whatever you feel without setting yourself up for disappointment by unrealistic emotional expectations. Be proud of yourself on paper and everywhere else. And when you consider any other person, know that they don’t feel like they look on paper either. Because life is huge.