I used to take it for granted what people said, that as you got older, you matured at a slower rate. However, as I grow older, I am beginning to question this. It seems that the changes I have made between when I was 18 and now are just as large as the changes I made between 13 and 18. Perhaps not as obvious, but just as important.
Some things that should be very obvious are things that I just learned in the past year. The largest of these, perhaps, is how to communicate with people. I had worked long days in tech support and criss-crossed the country on the Greyhound Bus and had been writing letters to zine writers across the country for years, all without figuring out this secret. The reason this secret eluded me was it was so damn obvious.
I remember the last gracie's brunch, not even a year ago. Steev had invited me, and I showed up, but when I was there, I didn't know what to do. I awkardly read some of the zines there and tried to talk to people, but mostly just talked to the one or two people I was acquainted with. My problem was, I was trying to think what I had in common with these people. That shouldn't have been a hard question, since we all had at least enough in common to all be at a Gracie's brunch. But it seemed that sharing hipster leftist beliefs wasn't enough to make me automatically friends with these people. Of course, finding a common ground with these people would be impossible. Why? Because by trying to focus on our goals, I was automatically putting the ground behind me.
All through my teenage years, I ignored what I was. Not that I was in denial, but it just seemed somehow unimportant to me. My goals seemed to be the important thing. What I planned to be, my beliefs about the world, my radical ideas, my shifting countercultural obsessions. On occasion, I played the game that Upski called blacker-than-thou, although I played it in various guises: trying to prove I was more educated, more radical, more internationalist, more multicultural than those around me. What would start as a conversation about books or music would turn into a cred check, with each party sizing each other up, and trying to 1-Up each other. Of course, I could never get the upper hand, since eventually this would turn into a discussion about who had the clearer plan for Tiqqun Olam.
Sometime in the past year, I don't know when, I realized how counter-productive this all was. And I realized that the alternative was extremely simple and so obvious I didn't know how I could have missed it: relate to people based on what you have around you, where you came from, rather than your visions of what you want to be, or think you want to be. I think the first Gracie's movie, The 48 Hour Movie may have played a large part in making this transformation in me. Here was a group of people all gathered around, and although we did all have a single goal -making a movie in 48 hours- it wasn't driven by any one person's "vision", it was driven by a group of people acting naturally with what was around them, and from that, the end result naturally proceeded. From that, I noticed that this is often the case in projects more mundane than making a gnostic space opera in a 2 day span, that if given the chance to work naturally amongst themselves, people don't need a grand "vision" or "goal" to get a good result. And that just by engaging people on what is around them: the weather, the lateness of the bus, their family, how they slept, how they have eaten, I can build some kind of relationship. This might seem like reducing things to the lowest common denominator, only communicating with people on the level of details of their mundane, bodily existence, but I would argue that as with building anything else, you have to start at the foundation before building any crystal spires. Therefore, I came to realize that anyone I talk to, I have to focus on what we have in common at that moment, even if it is only the fact that we are talking.