An article I found this morning via Utne (which also reminded me of something posted a while back at Smattery) got me thinking about my comfort zone. I try to vary my media diet as much as possible, yet I still easily slip into a routine of checking only certain sites, reading only certain magazines, lurking on certain blogs, usually checking first those written by people I know in some way. Does this, as the articles linked to above suggest, somehow insulate me from a wider, more challenging and difficult world?
Is this a problem related only to the online world? In “meatspace”, to use a very ’90s geek term, do you only meet and speak to people you already know? Or do you find yourself having to interact with people you might not otherwise choose to spend your time with? One thing that pleasantly surprised me when living in Italy was the frequency and facility with which they would strike up conversations with complete strangers. You’re sharing a train compartment with a handful of others, none of whom you have ever met before, and yet it’s not unusual for them to spontaneously start talking to each other. Not just social pleasantries either, but proper conversations.
I find this willingness to reach out to another human being, trusting them to be simply another pleasant human being rather than fearing that they may be a bore/psycho/idiot quite inspiring, and I’m trying to do more of that sort of thing myself, when possible.
Related: This morning I had to leave my car with the manufacturer for a routine check-up, and they gave me a courtesy car for the day. The courtesy car had no cd player, which means that, for the first day this year I had to interrupt my obsessive listening to In Rainbows and take my chances with the radio instead. So, by leaving my pre-determined, selected listening material, and flicking through the stations on offer in Brussels, I opened myself up to myriad new possibilities. I heard Arabic techno, Flemish Gospel, and the hilarious yet poignant “My name is Lucy”.