30.4.08

personal space invaders

Cramped up against the window I stood with only the air above me to draw from. My train has never been this busy of an afternoon. When the crowd alighted, room became abundant and people spaced out in almost perfect intervals across the empty seats.



My travel experience in Japan proved greater crowd numbers yet opposite with personal space. When all the passengers alight at a busy station, they remain squished together. Even in public places people will sit right next to each other when there is space all around. They just don't have personal space issues.

My station arrived with the majority of people getting off. This gave everyone another chance to group hug as we climbed up the stairs and through the ticket gates. Walking to my car was dark and lonely with only one girl ahead of me. I took this opportunity to play a little game of personal space. I would walk quicker to catch up and then slow down to keep my distance. She was aware of my presence and reacted accordingly - tensing and relaxing.

Yes, I am a little strange...

Driving home I considered the link between travelling and personal space with social interaction in person or online networking. I remembered a quote from the movie Collateral:

Max: First time in L.A.?
Vincent: No. Tell you the truth, whenever I'm here I can't wait to leave. It's too sprawled out, disconnected. You know? That's me. You like it?
Max: It's my home.
Vincent: 17 million people. This is got to be the fifth biggest economy in the world and nobody knows each other. I read about this guy who gets on the MTA here, dies. Six hours he's riding the subway before anybody notices his corpse doing laps around L.A., people on and off sitting next to him. Nobody notices.
Is our culture of individualism and personal space causing social breakdown? Thoughts?

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17.4.08

drunk-preaching reverse-psychology

Waiting for the station announcement, waiting for the tracks to screech, waiting for my feet to vibrate - I, along with everyone, was suddenly surprised by the next event unfolding. A lone man yelling and swearing emerged from the pack. He swayed back and forth holding a bottle in the air.

F***ing pricks! You think ya know whats f***ing good for me? People frantically glanced around hoping for some answers to the commotion.
I f***ing need 'em. Ya can't just take my life from me!
Be clean...? F*** this s***! They're good for me!
This world's screwed up... i f***ing may as well be too.
...they'll change your life son
he hinted towards a school student.

It soon became obvious to everyone what was going on. Those around me laughed and spoke to themselves:
How pathetic!
That's what you get for taking drugs!
What a life!


The train arrived, drowning out the sound of the drunk man. This obscure event gave me an interesting ride to work as I deeply considered what just happened:

He was, in a way, preaching to a crowd
He believed what he said
His lifestyle wasn't hypocritical to his message
He was confident
He was passionate
...in fact... he's a perfect communicator!
Then why such a negative response? I think its two fold:
- people already had preconceived understandings into the effects of drugs and alcohol
- people were embarrassed to associate themselves with his behaviour
Therefore it would be virtually impossible for this man to 'convert' anyone to his belief and lifestyle.
I continued my train of though - just how effective is embarrassment to a message's response? To change someone's presupposition on a subject involves rigorous intellectual discussion, but embarrassment... could it change someone on the spot? Could embarrassment dive straight into a person's heart and turn it immediately to oppose the very thing presented?

...something to consider for evangelism.

Alternatively: what if an atheist were to wave his arms, yell and scream:
Our f***ing life is all an accident!
Its so f***ing obvious!
God would have to be f***ing screwed up to exist!

Would anyone be embarrassed enough to judge their own beliefs? Would they consider a creator? Maybe a future social experiment...

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7.4.08

jump-start friendship

As I turned over the ignition, ready for the familiar sound of the starter motor, I was greeted with silence followed by 'click click click'. I suddenly awoke out of my commuting zombie state to realise the car battery's flat.

My attempts to push the wagon along a flat carpark while avoiding the potholes proved futile. I stopped to laugh at myself and was joined by another laugh:
Hehe! I feel your pain. It must be the night for breakdowns? a girl's voice came from the darkness.
You to?
Yep. Mind if we help each other? I'm Tammy.
Her social confidence was refreshing amidst the gloomy scenario. Her car kicked over without any trouble, while mine gave no sign of hope.

While waiting for the NRMA, we went for a drive to charge her battery. From previous experience I called my wife, hinting to Tammy that I'm married. While small talk filled our travel I kept praying for a natural gospel opportunity to come our way. As we pulled into Caltex to refill I payed for her fuel before she could realise.
Thank you so much. That's the only good thing that happened to me today.
Really?
Yeah, I broke up with my boyfriend this morning and having to work made it worse, and then the breakdown topped it off!
The next hour was spent listening and comforting Tammy as her strong confident persona slowly opened up to a fragile hurt woman. Throughout our conversation she said things to me like:
   Its just so good to meet someone who cares.
   I really needed a friend to let this all out to.
   You're the best for putting up with all my crap right now.

The awkwardness of being praised reminded me of Jesus' sermon on the mount:

Let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works
and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.
   Matthew 5
How can I help Tammy see my goodness is not me seeking praise?
How can I help her praise Jesus who works goodness in me?

The NRMA arrived and fixed my car faster than a rat out of an aqueduct. During our farewells we discovered we catch the same afternoon train and made plans to meet again. I ended our night with:
Thanks for the help, was great to meet you. I paused... I'll be praying for you, hope you feel better soon.

Driving home I laughed at my attempt to sneak 'prayer' into a goodbye hoping it would say something about my faith in Jesus. I pray God will plant the seed I so roughly scattered.

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