It was a cold evening and I sat in the rear seat of my son’s car hugging my coat closer in a vain attempt to keep in some warmth. I was grateful we wouldn’t have to contend with parking or walking in the cold (finally some payback for all of the hours we had spent driving kids around!).
We joined the crowd and funnelled into the front doors of the concert hall, everyone squeezing in together and out of the cold. Once inside, the frigid air slowly melted off my coat as we made our way to the box—a new experience: boxed seats. I watched the people milling around. Most were dressed just a little better than workday clothes. Most were smiling and chatting—excited about the show I assumed. And everyone was with someone else—couples, big groups, small groups. I didn’t see a single person who was alone.
We went up a flight of stairs and followed the instructions we had been given to find our seats. Several members of our group were already there and the others showed up almost immediately. We chatted and ate hors d’oeuveres, talking about the performer and sharing what we knew about his music and his career. Everyone knew something—some knew more than others—and everyone shared thoughts and opinions.
The lights went down and we obediently took our seats. The stage lights came up and the performer walked out onto the stage to the bold applause of the audience, shouts and whistles rising up over the clapping.
A couple of songs into the concert the performer stopped the proceedings, calling for the lights to come up over the audience. Some anonymous lights worker turned up the house lights and the performer glanced around, waving at the audience (more shouts and whistles). “Just trying to get a feel for the space,” he said, “I can’t actually see any of you with the lights on me.” He called for the lights to go down (they did) and went on with the concert.
That bothered me—the sort of one-way-mirror feeling introduced by the performer. The people in our group—and, I’m certain, in the rest of the audience—knew a lot about the performer’s life and work and he knew nothing about any person in the audience. One glance around the room (I could see the audience just fine) told me that there were hundreds of stories present, but the performer’s story was the only one being told that evening.
I’ve been thinking about that idea since the concert—irritated by the thought, actually. The more I thought about it, the more I realized that one-way communication isn’t the sole domain of concerts and performances. In fact, the more I thought about it, the more I realized it was inherent to every form of communication be it music, art, work, or reading this blog.
Every person reading this blog (or sharing a conversation or watching the same movie) will take away a different interpretation of the experience. They’ll remember different portions and they’ll form different ideas based on the same experience. There’s no possible way to have everyone leave a situation with exactly the same interpretations, ideas, or perspectives—certainly none of our group at the concert did—we compared notes afterward. I’m guessing that all of those other groups of people had the same thing happen in their groups.
That sort of thinking is something that will drive people like me crazy—I need to know people “get” what I’m saying.
Or maybe not.
Maybe the point of all those interactions isn’t to make someone think a certain thing. Maybe the point is to let them think something.
I’m thinking that maybe the world is a little more interesting—a little more meaningful—if everyone gets to make up their own stories.
Thanks for letting me contribute to yours.